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Hong Kong to suspend high-speed rail service in bid to halt spread of coronavirus

Hong Kong to suspend high-speed rail service in bid to halt spread of coronavirus

Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam gestures as she takes part in a press conference while wearing a facemask in Hong Kong on Jan 28, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Anthony WALLACE)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday (Jan 28) the high-speed rail service between the city and mainland China would be suspended from Thursday, and all cross-border ferry services would also be suspended in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Mrs Lam told a press briefing the number of flights to mainland China would also be halved and personal travel permits for mainland Chinese to the city would be suspended.

Eight people in Hong Kong are known to be suffering from the illness. Of those, six arrived via a newly built high-speed train line that connects the city to the Chinese mainland.

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Officials previously announced that people travelling to the semi-autonomous city from Hubei province in central China - the epicentre of the outbreak - as well as any who have visited the virus-hit area in the last two weeks are to be denied entry into Hong Kong from Monday.

But calls were growing from some politicians and medical experts for a complete shutdown of the mainland border to those not from Hong Kong.

"The epidemic has spread to many Chinese provinces. Only blocking visitors from Hubei can't do much to help Hong Kong," pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong said on Tuesday.

Authorities also said it was closing a range of public facilities from sports centres to campsites in a bid to curb the spread of the SARS-like virus that has left more than 100 dead across China.

READ: Wuhan virus death toll jumps to 106, more than 4,000 cases confirmed in China

READ: Global alarm grows as Beijing reports first virus death

All recreational facilities will be temporarily shut from Wednesday to "avoid people gathering", authorities said.

Hong Kong has declared the novel coronavirus a public "emergency" and on Saturday ramped up measures to reduce the risk of more infections.

Officials have also announced that all schools will extend their Chinese New Year holiday to mid-February and civil servants have been told to work from home.

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Source: AGENCIES/jt


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