Hong Kong — Protesters set fire to the lobby of a residential building intended for use as a coronavirus quarantine centre on Sunday (Jan 26). The centre had just been built and no one was living there.
The protesters had assembled earlier in the afternoon and barred access to the public housing block in the Fanling district. Tempers had flared due to the announcement that the authorities planned to instead use the block as a quarantine zone for individuals showing symptoms of the Wuhan virus.
It was announced that day that the number of people who had tested positive for the virus had risen to six.
Protesters threw Molotov cocktails at the building, setting the lobby on fire. Firemen were able to extinguish the flames. According to a Reuters report, one person was later arrested. Riot police occupied the area after firing tear-gas at the protesters.
The authorities say damage to the building was confined to the lobby.
Hong Kong residents are calling on the authorities to block the border to the mainland to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus, which has affected more than 2,700 people and killed at least 80. The virus has also spread to other countries.
The Hong Kong authorities have announced that residents from Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, will be banned from entering the territory. Individuals who have travelled to Hubei over the past fortnight will also not be allowed into Hong Kong.
After the fire-bombing incident, the Centre for Health Protection announced the suspension of the plan to use the building for quarantine purposes. One holiday park in a remote area has already been turned into a working quarantine facility, and two others also located away from public housing blocks are being considered for the same purpose.
However, officials are having difficulty finding accommodation for the medical staff who will be taking care of the novel coronavirus patients.
On Saturday (Jan 25), Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared that the outbreak had been classified as an “emergency” in the city.
She told members of the media: “Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency.”
Ms Lam met health officials shortly after returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
She added that classes would remain on break until Feb 17, and that other public activities, including a marathon and a new year gala, were cancelled.
Ms Lam said: “We haven’t seen serious and widespread infections (in Hong Kong), but we are taking this seriously and we hope to be ahead of the epidemic.” -/TISG
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