Coronavirus: Hongkongers rescued from Morocco spared double quarantine

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

More than two dozen Hongkongers rescued from Morocco on a government-chartered flight amid the Covid-19 pandemic have managed to avoid spending four weeks in quarantine across both mainland China and their home city.

The mainland government which organised the flight had requested that the 27 returnees be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival at Guangzhou airport, before heading south to Hong Kong, where they would have faced another two weeks of mandatory confinement.

But, in a statement released on Friday, the Hong Kong government said that, after discussions with officials in the nearby megacity, the residents would be allowed to go straight home, to begin quarantine there.

They would return to Hong Kong via Shenzhen Bay Port on a coach arranged by Hong Kong authorities, the statement read.

They will still be required to provide a nucleic acid sample on the Guangzhou side, for testing. After entering Hong Kong, they will be sent directly to the temporary testing centre at the AsiaWorld-Expo, to be screened for the coronavirus.

If they test negative, they will be allowed to return home for a 14-day compulsory quarantine, while anyone who tests positive will be admitted to hospital, where they will be treated in isolation.

Johnny So Tsz-yeung, general manager of Sunflower Travel, confirmed that three of its customers and a tour guide had landed at Guangzhou, from Morocco, on Friday afternoon. “I heard the authorities have not charged our clients. That’s a chartered flight to help Chinese citizens,” he said.

The group had been scheduled to return to Hong Kong in late March but was stranded in the country, which was placed under lockdown because of the pandemic.

A sister of one of the tour members who returned on Friday said the family was happy with the arrangement. “It is great as long as they could leave [Morocco]. It is even better for them to undergo quarantine directly in Hong Kong,” the woman, surnamed Ng, said.

The city government received calls for help from 158 Hongkongers stranded in Morocco, of whom 113 had already returned to the city on various flights.

Of the remaining 45, 18 did not take the chartered flight for various reasons, the administration said, adding it would continue to offer them practicable solutions, along with the Chinese embassy in the North African country and a number of airlines.

Among those who returned earlier was a traveller who said he was lucky to have received assistance from the British government.

“I requested help on March 15 but I didn’t feel the Hong Kong government had done anything,” said the Hong Kong passport holder in his 30s, who refused to give his name.

The British government notified his travel companions, who hold British National (Overseas) passports, of available routes to the country, and he ended up taking a flight to the UK on March 18, before returning to Hong Kong.

More than 1,200 Hong Kong residents stranded in over 62 foreign countries since the pandemic began had sought help from the government, the city’s security minister revealed on Thursday.

Among 65 who returned on a government-chartered flight from Peru last Sunday, five have tested positive for the coronavirus. That came after a 64-year-old Hong Kong man died last month in Cusco, in the country’s southeast after contracting the virus.

The costs of the chartered plane’s trips to and from Peru were covered by the passengers.

Separately, the last Hong Kong resident to have contracted Covid-19 while aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship has returned to Hong Kong after spending time in hospital in Japan, the Security Bureau said.

Immigration Department staff who had been staying in the country to help hospitalised Hongkongers have also completed their mission and returned home.

Some 370 Hong Kong residents were among the 3,700 passengers and crew on the ship, which ended up docked in Yokohama after an outbreak on board. Among the 712 people confirmed as infected on the ship, 76 were Hong Kong residents, three of whom died in Japan.


Category: Hong Kong

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