Coronavirus: government could charter flights to bring home first batch of Hongkongers stranded in Hubei next Wednesday

02-Mar-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The government could charter flights to bring home the first batch of Hongkongers stranded in Hubei province in mainland China, the epicentre of the Covid-19 epidemic, next Wednesday, the Post has learned.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said the government would liaise with the provincial authorities, officials in Hubei’s capital city of Wuhan, and Cathay Dragon, the airline that will provide the flights, to work out the details.

Nip said the process would take time because the Immigration Department would have to contact each person who reached out to the office to verify their residency status.

“The Department of Health also has to review their declaration of health conditions, especially of those who are in special conditions, such as pregnancy and chronic illnesses, to assess whether they are suitable to board the flights,” Nip wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.

He gave no timeline, but a person familiar with the matter said Nip believed it could be done as early as next Wednesday.

When the government announced plans to rescue stranded Hongkongers earlier this week following weeks of pressure from across the political spectrum it said the flights would only accept Hong Kong ID card holders with no symptoms of fever and respiratory or infectious diseases.

Nip revealed his plan on Monday, which was open for registration until 6pm on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Nip proposed that the first flight would carry some of the 450 residents stranded in Wuhan, as well as emergency cases stranded in other parts of Hubei.

They would include pregnant women, patients with severe illnesses, those who need to undergo surgeries, as well as students taking the Diploma of Secondary Education examination.

Scattered across 37 cities in the central Chinese province, there are several pregnant women and at least 47 children of school age, including two kindergarten pupils.

The government said it had received 2,700 requests for help from Hubei province. Eleven Hongkongers were also known to be infected with the coronavirus.

On Friday, Nip said some people who had not sought help earlier had come forward after the rescue plan was announced.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Luk Chung-hung, from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said more than 1,500 individuals reached out to his organisation for help. Only 137 cases were located in Wuhan.

Members of the federation met Nip’s bureau on Friday to propose utilising all airports in Hubei along with the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport.

They said some who were stranded in cities other than Wuhan feared they could get infected on their way to the Wuhan airport because of the long commute.


Category: Hong Kong

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