Firebombs Thrown at Proposed Hong Kong Quarantine Facility for Wuhan Virus

An entrance to a vacant housing block of the Fai Ming Estate is seen on fire as residents protest against plans for a empty local housing estate to be used as a temporary quarantine camp for patients and frontline medical staff of a SARS-like virus outbreak which began in the …
PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

A new and unoccupied residential building in Hong Kong that was designated as a quarantine facility for people infected by the rapidly spreading Wuhan coronavirus was attacked by vandals with firebombs on Sunday, prompting the authorities to postpone plans to expand the quarantine operation.

The building is called Fai Ming Estate, located in the Fanling suburb of Hong Kong. A protest was held outside the building on Sunday. Several protesters threw gasoline bombs into the empty lobby of the structure on Sunday night. Reporters on the scene saw flames coming from the entrances of two apartment blocks before the blaze was controlled by firefighters.

In the early morning hours on Monday, a small bomb was detonated in a toilet at the Caritas Medical Center. The hospital evacuated some patients and temporarily reduced emergency services after the explosion, but no injuries were reported. 

There was no confirmed claim of responsibility for the bombing, but a message posted on the encrypted site Telegram said the toilet bomb was “just a warning” and “there will be more real bombs to come” unless Hong Kong’s border with China is sealed to keep the Wuhan virus at bay.

The message advised Hong Kong hospital workers to “go on strike immediately if you don’t want to die” and promised to “take more actions to call for the closing of borders.”

Saturday marked the beginning of the Lunar New Year holiday, bringing renewed protest activity after a few weeks of relative calm in Hong Kong. The protesters have evidently added the Wuhan virus to their long list of complaints against the Chinese government and its functionaries in Hong Kong, blaming the rapid spread of the disease on the dishonesty and inefficiency of the Chinese Communist Party.

There is growing public anger in Hong Kong at the prospect of the Wuhan outbreak spreading from China into the island city. Three isolated parks in rural Hong Kong have been designated as potential treatment and quarantine areas for the virus, but Fai Ming Estate would be the first such facility in a densely populated suburban area.

“We are dissatisfied with the government selecting this housing estate as a (quarantine) separation village as it’s very close to a residential area and a primary school,” one Fanling resident told Reuters on Sunday.

Hong Kong health officials say they now have 107 people under quarantine for the Wuhan coronavirus. Eight confirmed cases of infection have been reported so far, four of them in people who recently traveled to the mainland using the high-speed rail line that was opened last year.

On Saturday, Hong Kong declared the outbreak an “emergency,” the highest level of warning the city can give. Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said during her Saturday press conference that due to the citywide emergency, schools will be closed until February 17, air and rail travel to the mainland will be temporarily suspended, and Lunar New Year celebrations will be canceled.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that thousands of Chinese fleeing from Wuhan’s Hubei province before the city was placed under lockdown attempted to reach Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and Japan, but most of them got no further than Henan, the province adjacent to Hubei. The government of Hong Kong announced on Monday that Hubei residents and travelers who have visited the province within the last 14 days will be barred from entering Hong Kong.

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