Hundreds in Hong Kong Protest Plans for Coronavirus Centers in Residential Areas

An aerial photo shows Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village, the city's largest quarantine site, which is being used to house people identified as having contact with confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hong Kong on February 17, 2020. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY …
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong over the weekend to protest plans for establishing 18 treatment centers for the Wuhan coronavirus in residential neighborhoods.

Some of the demonstrations escalated into clashes with the police after participants tried to block off roads and vandalize clinics.

The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported several district officials participated in the demonstrations, and at least two of them were pepper-sprayed by the police. 

Opposition legislator Claudia Mo suggested Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam should consider using “more desirable sites” for treating coronavirus patients, such as Chinese military barracks:

When asked if lawmakers or district councillors were told about the clinic plans, she said: “None… [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam behaves like a tinpot dictator and obviously thinks she can do just anything she wants… the residents should at least be consulted over the designated clinic plan.”

“Carrie Lam starts the fire on one hand, and pretends to try to have it put out on the other. Hongkongers caught in the middle are getting burnt.” Mo added.

Meanwhile, District Councillor Mak Tsz-kin told HKFP that he was stopped and searched by a police officer at a Fo Tan protest before the assembly began: “He asked me questions with a very unfriendly attitude,” he said. He also questioned if water cannon trucks deployed at Shan Mei Street were necessary.

Mak said that chances of community outbreak in the neighbourhood were a concern: “We have no confidence in this government. Incidents of home-quarantined patients escaping are not unheard of. How do they ensure that there will be enough manpower to monitor the situation?”

Several quarantine centers are already up and running in Hong Kong residential areas and are approaching their maximum capacity. Hong Kong has reported 62 cases of the virus so far, with one fatality.

The South China Morning Post on Tuesday cited research from Chinese University that found isolation for Hong Kong coronavirus patients has been delayed by an average of six and a half days, with an average of three visits to the doctor before quarantine was ordered, giving the virus more of an opportunity to spread. There have been 43 cases of local infection so far, 12 of them from completely unknown sources.

The researchers also argued that Hong Kongers are not practicing enough defensive “social distancing measures,” although over 98 percent of them are wearing masks in public areas.  

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