Protesters set ablaze planned coronavirus quarantine facility in Hong Kong


Hong Kong protesters set a planned quarantine facility to contain the Wuhan virus on fire over fears of the contagion, on Sunday, January 26. Demonstrators were upset with the government’s selection of the facility for being too close to a residential area and a primary school.

The fire was started by several masked protesters, clad in black, who rushed into the public housing block in Hong Kong’s Fanling district near to the border with China, and lobbed a lighted Molotov cocktail before running out.

Black smoke started pouring out of the building amid the sound of fire alarms. The glass windows in the facility were also smashed.

Responding firefighters were able to put out the fire immediately and the damage appeared to be confined to the lobby area. Hundreds of riot police also moved in, arresting at least one person

Earlier in the afternoon, hundreds of regular Hong Kong citizens had blocked roads leading to the building with bricks and other debris, as anger grew towards government plans to convert the building into a quarantine zone as the number of confirmed cases in the city climbed to six on Sunday.

“We are dissatisfied with the government selecting this housing estate as a (quarantine) separation village as it’s very close to a residential area and a primary school,” said a 28-year-old resident surnamed Tsang.

The unrest came as city authorities announced anyone from Hubei, the central Chinese province where the outbreak began, would be denied entry until further notice.

Hong Kong has been convulsed with protests over the last seven months centred on Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China, with some protesters railing against what they see as growing interference from Beijing.

The outbreak of the coronavirus from the Chinese city of Wuhan has piled further pressure on embattled Hong Kong authorities.

Authorities in Hong Kong had earlier said they would convert “Fai Ming Estate, an unoccupied public estate in Fanling, into temporary flats for quarantine and observation of close contact persons without symptoms if needed”.

But after the protest, the government said in a statement it would “cease the related preparation work in Fai Ming Estate.”

The Centre for Health Protection said the plan to turn the housing estate into a quarantine zone would be suspended.

The agency has already turned a holiday park in an isolated rural area into a working quarantine facility. Two other holiday parks located away from major housing estates are also ready to be used as similar facilities.

But officials say they have struggled to find hotels and spare rooms for doctors and nurses working on the isolation wards where patients are being treated.

Health authorities in the afternoon said 107 people were now under quarantine, and there were 77 suspected cases.

The ability of the new coronavirus to spread is strengthening and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday, with nearly 2,000 people in China infected and 56 killed by the disease.

A handful of cases have been reported outside China, including in Thailand, Australia, the United States and France, with health authorities around the world racing to prevent a pandemic. (Source: CNA)