Coronavirus: Hong Kong Disneyland to lend vacant sites to government for quarantine facilities

Olga Wong

Hong Kong Disneyland has agreed to lend vacant sites to the government to build coronavirus quarantine facilities, although there was no immediate plan to bring residents stranded in Wuhan back before more units were built, officials said on Friday, confirming an earlier report by the Post.

“We have secured the company’s consent to use part of the site if it is needed,” Commerce and Economic Development Bureau chief Edward Yau Tang-wah said, referring to a 60-hectare plot reserved for the theme park’s expansion on Lantau Island.

“We need all quarantine facilities for surveillance, basically we will leave no stone unturned [when identifying sites for building quarantine facilities],” Yau said at a government press conference.

The government also said, for the first time, that having sufficient quarantine facilities was a condition to bringing back 2,200 Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei province, the epicentre of the deadly outbreak. Some 10 of them have been confirmed infected with the virus.

“We have already started planning for their return,” said mainland affairs minister Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.

“We first need to have these facilities as well as the understanding of residents [near the quarantine sites] before we implement the plan.”

The four hectare land near the car park at Disney could provide about 600 units, according to a government estimate. A camp near the Junior Police Call in Pat Heung, plus public housing estates in Foo Tan and three other camps, could create another 1,600 units in total, it added.

Proposals to use public housing estates as quarantine facilities was met with opposition from local district councillors and residents, with some escalating into violent action.

Joe Chan, who was trapped in a neighbouring city to Wuhan, accused the government of abandoning those in Hubei.

“What Patrick Nip said is basically trying to return the ball into our court and to stir up opposition to us,” Chan said.

“The quarantine facilities may not even be enough when the Hubei authorities let us to go. Are you saying we are not even welcome in our own home?”

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is assisting several families in Hubei, said the government had been slow in its response to those trapped in Wuhan.

“Hong Kong people cannot understand why other governments such as those of the USA, India and Taiwan have managed to get their citizens out of Hubei while Carrie Lam’s administration could not,” To said.

“It is imminent and for the benefit of relieving the pressure of the coronavirus epidemic in Hubei to get Hongkongers back to this city as soon as possible.”

Other than the Hongkongers still trapped in Hubei, there are also 330 stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked outside Yokohama in Japan. As of Friday, 11 on the luxury liner had already been confirmed as infected with the new coronavirus, which causes the disease now known as Covid-19.

Security minister John Lee Ka-chiu said the Hong Kong authorities were in touch with their Japanese counterparts to see when passengers would be allowed to leave the ship. A woman, 80, could be among the first batch of passengers who tested negative and would be allowed to leave the vessel.

Pressed on the slow progress to bring the Hongkongers home, especially those in Wuhan who were particularly vulnerable, Nip said officials had been considering how to do so “in batches” but gave no exact dates.

Mainland Chinese authorities had yet to agreed to Hong Kong’s proposal to carry those in Hubei back, a political source with direct knowledge said.

The priority, according to Nip, was to send vital medication to about 90 citizens in Hubei first. Two batches of medication had already been mailed to Wuhan, while another two were on the way, he said.

Disneyland is currently closed as a precaution against the outbreak.

As of Friday afternoon, Hong Kong had 56 confirmed cases of the infection, including one fatality. More than 64,400 people worldwide have contracted the virus, mostly in mainland China, with the death toll now above 1,380.

A Disney spokesman said the company had agreed to explore the use of Penny’s Bay site reserved for future tourism development at the request of the Hong Kong government.

“The land identified is separate and away from existing operations,” he said.

This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong Disneyland to lend vacant sites to government for quarantine facilities first appeared on South China Morning Post

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