Published: Mon, February 03, 2020
Markets | By Otis Pena

Hong Kong tightens border with mainland over coronavirus

Hong Kong tightens border with mainland over coronavirus

Hundreds of Hong Kong medical workers walked off their jobs on Monday, demanding the city close its border with China to reduce the coronavirus spreading - with frontline staff threatening to follow suit in the coming days. The closures were to take effect at midnight on Monday.

"If there is no full border closure, there won't be enough manpower, protective equipment, or isolation rooms, to combat the outbreak", Winnie Yu, chairwoman of the newly-formed Hospital Authority Employees Alliance said.

Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Paul Chan, seen here on February 27, 2019, said catering, retail, tourism and consumer sectors, which have been hit in the last six months, would 'fall into a deeper winter'.

Primary and secondary schools, kindergartens and special schools across Hong Kong will not resume class until March 2, Lam told a press conference, adding that the date may be further postponed pending the HKSAR government's future assessment of the development of the epidemic, the supply of anti-epidemic materials and the readiness of schools.

Although the coronavirus appears to be more contained than the 2003 SARS outbreak, Evans-Pritchard believes Hong Kong's economy will suffer as a result of its reliance on Chinese tourism.

"[We] hope that these strikes will make the government respond to our five demands, most importantly to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Hong Kong", said medical worker Tracy Pui, who queued up with colleagues to sign a petition in support of the HAEA.

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The virus comes at a time when Hong Kong's economy has been battered by the monthslong political unrest and the protracted U.S.

The fourth quarter - which witnessed the worst violence between police and protesters - clocked a 2.9 percent contraction, the third straight quarter of declines. This means an additional 6,000 workers, including those at emergency services units, will join the strike, bringing the total number of strikers to more than 9,000. "At this critical moment, (some people are) taking extreme means and it is inevitable it will affect the rights of patients", Lam said.

Months of unrest in Hong Kong previous year plunged the financial and trading hub into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

"The impact of the Wuhan virus epidemic is likely to further increase the negative shocks.in the near term", said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific Chief Economist at IHS Markit. The city's retail and tourism sectors rely heavily on spenders from the Chinese mainland.

People wear protective face masks on a street corner in Hong Kong, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Further stimulus measures are expected in a budget announcement on February 26.

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