As the Hong Kong leadership continue to refuse sealing of all its borders with mainland China, medical workers carried on with their strike on Wednesday, February 5, piling pressure on the city’s government, as the number of locally transmitted cases of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) increased.
The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has suspended some links with the mainland and closed some border crossings but she has left three open, arguing that to close the entire border would be inappropriate, impractical and discriminatory.
The city state saw its first death from the virus on Tuesday. It has 18 confirmed cases, including at least four that were transmitted locally, authorities said.
“As the disease is spreading rapidly in our community, and locally infected cases are steadily increasing, we are dangerously close to a massive community outbreak comparable to SARS,” a newly formed union called the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA) said in a statement.
The coronavirus epidemic, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has rekindled memories in Hong Kong of a 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that began in China and killed nearly 300 people in the city.
The latest virus has spread rapidly in China with nearly 27,000 people infected and 564 deaths, most in Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei.
Health workers and members of other trade unions in Hong Kong have demanded that the border with the mainland be completely sealed to block it.
Thousands of medical staff has joined members of other trade unions this week and the city’s Hospital Authority has warned that emergency services are being severely hampered.
Hong Kong’s beleaguered public hospital network was suffering from staff shortages and limited hospital beds before the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday, dozens of medical representatives including the chairwoman of HAEA, Winnie Yu, marched to government headquarters to press their demands for the border to be sealed.
The health scare comes after months of at times violent protests in Hong Kong sparked by fears its autonomy, guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula, is being eroded by Beijing.
Some protesters have come out in support of the HAEA strike with some demonstrations beginning to take on the characteristics of the protests.
Overnight, police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd in the city’s rural New Territories after protesters denounced the government’s refusal to seal the border.
On Wednesday, masked workers brandished posters reading “Hospital workers on strike” and “If we burn, you burn too” as they petitioned Lam to meet them and handed in a letter to her office on behalf of front-line medical staff. (Source: CNA)