POST TIME: 24 January, 2020 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 24 January, 2020 12:09:44 AM
Holiday camps become quarantine zones as virus fears spike in HK
Residents in China’s Wuhan react to quarantine
AFP, Hong Kong

Holiday camps become quarantine zones as virus fears spike in HK

Security personnel wearing protective masks walk in front of the portrait of late communist leader Mao Zedong (C, back) at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing yesterday. China is halting public transport and closing highway toll stations in two more cities in Hubei province, the epicentre of a deadly virus outbreak. AFP photo

Hong Kong has turned two holiday camps, including a former military barracks, into quarantine zones for people who may have come into contact with carriers of the Wuhan virus, officials announced yesterday. The international financial hub has been on high alert for the virus, which has killed 17 people since the outbreak started in central China. The same sites were used as quarantine facilities during the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak 17 years ago.

Nearly 300 people in Hong Kong were killed by SARS, a tragedy that left a profound psychological impact on one of the most densely populated places on earth.

So far, two people in the city have tested positive for the new coronavirus -- which is similar to the SARS pathogen. Both had visited Wuhan in recent days and are being treated on isolation wards in hospital.

The gambling hub of Macau, which is hugely popular with mainland tourists, also confirmed two cases this week. On Thursday, Macau's tourism bureau announced it was cancelling all official Lunar New Year celebrations in response.

In Hong Kong, officials announced two parks usually used by campers and holidaymakers had been prepared to isolate any potential cases while they await test results.

"We will have a full team of staff to operate the quarantine camps," Wong Ka-hing, the director of the Centre for Health Protection, told

reporters. Wong said three people who had come into close contact with the two confirmed cases would be taken to a camp in rural Sai Kung district.

Another holiday camp, a former British military barracks on Hong Kong island, was being prepared to serve as a quarantine facility.

Local news network RTHK said one of the first people to be transported to the quarantine site in Sai Kung was an Australian visitor who had stayed at the same hotel as a man who tested positive for the virus.

“I feel so good right now,” RTHK quoted the unidentified man as saying.

When asked what he had been told about why he was being placed in isolation, the visitor replied: “I have no idea why. I was just living in the hotel.”

An AFP photographer saw a woman in a face mask being brought into the camp in the back of a minibus but she declined to answer questions.