HONG KONG: Hong Kong confirmed its first case of a new flu-like coronavirus on Wednesday following an outbreak in the central mainland China city of Wuhan, local broadcasters RTHK, Cable TV and TVB said, citing unnamed sources.
The outbreak, which began in Wuhan, has spread to more Chinese cities including the capital Beijing, Shanghai, and Macau and cases have been reported outside the country’s borders, in South Korea, Thailand and Japan.
The patient arrived in Hong Kong via high-speed railway from the mainland, and has been quarantined at the Queen Elizabeth hospital, the reports said.
The Hospital Authority on Tuesday enhanced laboratory surveillance for pneumonia cases, to include patients with travel history to all of mainland China, rather than just Wuhan.
Hong Kong had deployed temperature screening machinery at the airport and the high-speed rail station.
Air passengers are required to fill in health declaration forms. Some 500 isolation wards at public hospitals were available, with more ordinary wards to be converted if necessary.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named because of the crown-like spikes on their surfaces that cause respiratory illnesses ranging from the common cold to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Hong Kong was badly hit by the SARS virus in 2003 and has had many episodes of H5N1 bird flu for more than a decade. According to WHO figures, 1,755 people in Hong Kong contracted the SARS virus at the time and 299 died.
The SARS virus remains engrained in Hong Kongers’ memory.
Many of the city’s residents wear surgical masks often, shopping malls provide sanitizers at receptions, staff at office buildings and condominiums clean door handles and elevator buttons several times a day.