Hong Kong medical workers voted on Friday to end their strike which had been called to demand the total closure of the city state’s border with mainland China out of fear of an influx of coronavirus infections.
Some 3,600 members of the newly formed Hospital Authority Employees Alliance chose to end their strike as the government warned that anyone breaking a mandatory 14-day quarantine could be jailed for up to six months.
The union also wanted adequate protective equipment for hospital staff and a promise that the Hospital Authority would not retaliate against striking workers.
The decision came after the union said that talks with the Hospital Authority hadn’t progressed, because management had failed to bring anything to the table.
Union vice-chair Ivan Law said the body that runs government hospitals in Hong Kong hadn’t prepared any facts or figures about their plans to protect staff from the coronavirus epidemic or to support them.
Meanwhile, the city’s second-in-command Matthew Cheung said that anyone breaching orders to remain in quarantine for the 14-day incubation period of the coronavirus could face prosecution and six-month jail term.
Anyone arriving from mainland China will be ordered to remain under quarantine for 14 days with no visitors, and can call 24-hour hotlines to access food, help, or other supplies.
It was also announced that essential transportation staff will be under constant medical surveillance if they need to cross the border for their jobs.
The measures came amid a surge in arrivals to 145,000 on Thursday, ahead of the implementation of the new quarantine restrictions.
“This is understandable and to be expected, because many people will be returning to Hong Kong ahead of the 14-day compulsory quarantine measures which begin tomorrow,” security secretary John Lee told reporters.
“Since January 30, the number of arrivals has fallen by 75%, although this is a partial figure, and does not reflect the overall situation,” he said.
Media footage showed long lines at the Shenzhen Bay border crossing, with passengers scrambling to complete health declaration forms in the immigration hall, or lining up in masks with their luggage to catch the bus into the city.
Some travellers said they had come to stock up on daily necessities before heading back to mainland China, where they were based.
Some people said they had deliberately come home early to escape the quarantine measures.
“If we had just left it another two days, we might not be allowed in,” a traveller surnamed Chu told RFA. (Source: RFA)