Help for cruise passengers continues

February 27, 2020

The Immigration Department and the Department of Health have reinforced their staff to Japan to continue assisting the Hong Kong passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are still there.


The Hong Kong passengers include patients confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and are hospitalised, as well as the close contacts of the confirmed cases now under quarantine on land.


Currently, there are 23 immigration officers in Japan and a medical team including infectious disease and respiratory medicine specialists providing suitable support to the patients and their families.


All passengers onboard the cruise ship disembarked on February 23. At that time, 70 among the 691 confirmed coronavirus infection cases involved Hong Kong residents. Another 31 were regarded as close contacts and sent to various land quarantine facilities for 14 days.


Earlier, two Hong Kong passengers who are close contacts were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 72.


Three government chartered flights were arranged to bring home 193 Hong Kong residents between February 19 and 23. Up till now, another 25 Hong Kong residents have returned by themselves on other flights.


As at February 26, 218 Hong Kong passengers have been sent to the Chun Yeung Estate quarantine centre. Among them, seven have subsequently been confirmed to have contracted the virus and sent to hospitals for isolation and treatment.


The close-to-100 Hong Kong residents who are hospitalised or under quarantine in Japan have been sent to hospitals or quarantine facilities across 11 prefectures and cities, namely Aichi, Kanagawa, Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Gifu, Nara, Yamanashi, Nagano, Osaka and Saitama.


Immigration officers are split and assigned to these places to help Hong Kong residents there.


The Department of Health’s medical team will also visit the confirmed patients and their families as far as practicable, and will contact the attending doctors and where appropriate, arrange direct conversations with the patients or their family members to assess whether the patients have received appropriate medical treatment.


As of February 26, eight confirmed patients among the Hong Kong passengers have recovered and been discharged from hospital after treatment. Four of them have returned to Hong Kong and the remaining four are still in Japan accompanying their family members or awaiting assistance from immigration officers for flight arrangements for their return.


Discharged patients would have been tested twice for COVID-19 and both test results have to be negative before they are discharged from hospital, to ensure they are no longer infectious.


For prudence sake, each discharged patient is given health advice and reminded to contact port health staff upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport for a health assessment and arrangement of a 14-day medical surveillance.


In addition, a Hong Kong resident who was classified as a close contact has completed the quarantine in Japan and was permitted to leave.


Close contacts need to have their health assessed by port health staff upon their return to Hong Kong. If a close contact has not finished a 14-day quarantine counted from the day of disembarkation from the Diamond Princess, or February 23, he or she must  complete the remaining quarantine period in a quarantine centre upon returning home.


The close contact of concern has returned to Hong Kong and is continuing the quarantine at Chun Yeung Estate.


Other close contacts who are still in Japan have all now been admitted to land quarantine facilities for a 14-day stay, counted from the day of last contact with the confirmed cases.


Over the past few days, the Hong Kong Government has continued to actively consider feasible plans for bringing them back earlier. However, as they are still under quarantine and might carry certain infection risks, the airlines approached by the Government have expressed reservations about providing a chartered flight service.


Various companies approached by the Government are also unwilling to accept the service request for land passage services, as the concerned close contacts are scattered across 11 different places.


These close contacts will finish the quarantine on different dates and be tested for COVID-19. The immigration officers in Japan will continue to follow their situation closely and provide the necessary assistance, including helping arrange for their early return to Hong Kong after they have completed quarantine in Japan.

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