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Monkeypox Fears Could Derail Hong Kong Border Reopening Plans As New Quarantine Facilties Opened

Monkeypox Fears Could Derail Hong Kong Border Reopening Plans As New Quarantine Facilties Opened

Hong Kong has opened a dedicated monkeypox quarantine facility and has activated a health alert after a single international traveller tested positive for the virus last week.

The 30-year-old patient was transferred to an isolation ward after returning to Hong Kong from the Philipines on September 5. The man had spent several weeks in Canada and the United States before returning to Hong Kong where he developed a rash and sore throat.

The man was already confined to hotel quarantine as part of Hong Kong’s enduring pandemic travel rules but was immediately taken by hazmat-suited officials to a local hospital where he has been locked into a negative pressure isolation ward. He will remain in solitary confinement until he has fully recovered.

Hong Kong has been teasing the possible end of pandemic travel rules for several months, and the government is under increasing pressure to remove the need for inbound travellers to undergo any form of quarantine.

At the same time, Beijing’s ‘Covid zero’ influence is ever-present, and officials are wary of swinging open the borders.

Until only recently, travellers were subjected to a three-week quarantine period, although this was reduced to one week and now just three days. Still, travellers who test positive for COVID-19 run the risk of being transferred to a dedicated government quarantine facility should they display symptoms of a contagious disease.

Hong Kong developed a massive and now notorious quarantine facility in Penny’s Bay, but the city has also just repurposed a recreation center into a 100-bed isolation facility for confirmed or suspected monkeypox cases.

The risk of allowing monkeypox into the territory could deter officials from easing pandemic border rules ahead of a banking summit in November and a large rugby tournament.

Earlier this month the government said it was stepping up surveillance and monitoring of monkeypox for both inbound travellers, although health officials do, at least, concede that the risk to most Hong Kongers remains low.

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