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Hong Kong

Hong Kong SAR (China) US Consular Information Sheet
August 26, 2008
DESCRIPTION:
Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since July 1, 1997, has a high degree of autonomy, except in the ar
as of defense and foreign policy, and retains its own currency, laws, and border controls.
It is composed of three geographic areas: the New Territories, Kowloon Peninsula, and Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong SAR is cosmopolitan and highly developed.
Tourist facilities and services are widely available.
The Hong Kong SAR Government web site provides Hong Kong Fact Sheets on a comprehensive range of subjects at http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/index.htm.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Hong Kong for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport with a minimum of one-month validity after the period of intended stay, adequate funds to cover stay without working and evidence of onward/return transportation are required.
Because many neighboring areas require six months validity remaining on the passport, U.S. citizens planning travel beyond Hong Kong should ensure that their passports are valid for at least six months from the date of their proposed entry into such areas.
A visa is not required for tourist visits of up to 90 days by U.S. citizens.
An extension of stay may be granted upon application to the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department.
Visas are required to work or study in Hong Kong.
Visit the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department at http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/home.htm or the Embassy of the People's Republic of China web site at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/ for the most current visa information.

U.S. citizens should obtain all required visas prior to departing the U.S.
Specifically, U.S. citizens wishing to travel to the PRC from Hong Kong require a PRC visa and should apply at the PRC Embassy or consulates in the U.S.
Parents whose children hold U.S. passports should be aware that the PRC Visa Office may require certified birth certificates or other U.S. documents for these children.
Persons applying in Hong Kong for PRC visas for U.S.-born children have been unable to obtain PRC visas without the certified U.S. birth certificate.
Parents should consider bringing their children’s certified birth certificates if applying for a PRC visa in Hong Kong.
Further information on travel to and around the PRC is available in our China Country Specific Sheet.

Information about the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Although there have been no terrorist incidents in Hong Kong, the Department of State reminds Americans everywhere that U.S. citizens and interests are at a heightened risk of attack by terrorists.
These individuals and groups have proven that they do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Because security awareness has been elevated within the United States, terrorists may target U.S. interests overseas.
Private Americans should be aware of the potential risks when making travel plans and should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and exercise caution.
The State Department will continue to develop information about potential threats.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Hong Kong SAR has a low crime rate.
Even so, travelers should exercise caution when in congested areas and pay particular attention to personal belongings while in crowded markets and while traveling on public transportation.
Violent crime, though rare, does occur.

There have been a few reports of robberies involving the drug rohypnol, commonly known as the “date rape drug.”
Most reports have involved bar staff and/or prostitutes from bars and clubs in the popular Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui districts.
The drug is administered via food or drink to unwitting victims, who later awake to find all of their valuables missing.
The drug causes the victim to lose consciousness, sometimes for over 24 hours, and often induces short-term amnesia.
Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and should not accept food or drink from strangers or new acquaintances.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.
The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Hong Kong has a crime victim compensation program available to U.S. citizens who are legal residents or tourists in Hong Kong.
For more detailed information on the program and its requirements, please see the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department web page at http://www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/site_pubsvc/page_socsecu/sub_criminalan/.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Hong Kong is 999.

See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Good medical facilities are available, and there are many Western-trained physicians in Hong Kong.
Prescription drugs are widely available although may have different names than those in the U.S.
Emergency services response time is good.
Doctors and hospitals require immediate cash payment for health services and generally do not accept credit cards.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Hong Kong.

The H5N1 virus (“avian flu”) has been found in poultry and wild birds in Hong Kong.
While rare, human infection and death from H5N1 infection have been reported.
Most reported cases of human infection with H5N1 viruses have occurred after contact with H5N1-infected poultry or birds, but a small number of cases may have occurred following close and prolonged contact with another person who is visibly ill from H5N1 infection.
Further information about Avian Flu is available from the Centers for Disease Control’s Avian Flu Traveler Information web page at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentAvianFluInformation.aspx.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Hong Kong is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

About 90 percent of the population in Hong Kong depends on public transport. Taxis, buses, and the mass transit railway (MTR) are readily available, inexpensive, and generally safe. The MTR is an underground railway network and is the most popular mode of public transport, carrying an average of 2.3 million passengers a day.

In Hong Kong, traffic moves on the left. During the daytime, traffic congests Hong Kong's urban areas.
Each year, more than 19,000 drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are injured or killed in traffic accidents in Hong Kong.
Speed limits are 50 kilometers per hour in urban areas, 80 kilometers per hour on highways and 110 kilometers per hour on expressways unless otherwise marked.
The use of seat belts in vehicles, if so equipped, is mandatory both in the front and back seats.
The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death can be a fine of $50,000 HK ($6,500 US), imprisonment for five years and disqualification from driving for not less than two years on first conviction.
At the scene of a traffic accident, drivers are required to undergo alcohol level testing.
Any driver found exceeding the prescribed limit of blood alcohol level may face prosecution under Hong Kong law.
The use of hand-held cellular phones while driving in Hong Kong is strictly prohibited.
A breach of this law can lead to a maximum fine of $2,000 HK ($260 US).
However, motorists can use “hands-free devices,” such as headphones and speakerphones.
Hong Kong law requires that all registered vehicles carry valid third-party liability insurance.

A Hong Kong driver’s license may be issued without a test to individuals who hold a valid U.S. driver’s license, provided they have resided in the United States for not less than six months. U.S. citizen visitors who do not plan to stay in Hong Kong for more than twelve months can drive in Hong Kong on their valid U.S. driver’s license.
Visit the website of the Hong Kong Transport Department at http://www.td.gov.hk/home/index.htm for further details.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Hong Kong’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Customs Regulations:
Hong Kong SAR customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning controlled items carried while transiting Hong Kong (temporary importation or exportation) such as firearms and ammunition, counterfeit goods or illegally produced copies of copyright items, ivory, narcotics, medications, television decoders requiring a subscription, animals and plants, meat and poultry, textiles, and sensitive high technology or military products.
Travelers bringing such goods into Hong Kong without a license may be prosecuted and the goods may be seized. The penalty for trafficking in dangerous drugs can be life imprisonment and a heavy fine.
Among the other items that travelers must declare to customs officials are liquors, tobacco, cigarettes and cigars, methyl alcohol, and merchandise imported for commercial purposes.
There are no currency restrictions for travelers.

Travelers are liable to prosecution and possible detention if they bring into/out of Hong Kong any firearm or ammunition.
Unless otherwise exempted by laws, possession of an "imitation firearm" is also an offense. "Arms" means any firearm, air rifle/air gun/air pistol from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged with a muzzle energy greater than two joules, electric stunning device, gun/pistol or other propelling/releasing instrument from or by which a projectile containing any gas or chemical could be discharged, weapon for the discharge of any noxious liquid/gas/powder, and harpoon or spear gun. Paintball guns are included in this category.

Travelers are also liable to prosecution if they bring into/out of Hong Kong any "weapon," which includes Chinese-style throwing dart, gravity knife, gravity-operated steel baton, knuckleduster, Chinese-style fighting iron, spring-loaded steel baton, any knife the blade of which is exposed by a spring or other mechanical/electric device, and any bladed/pointed weapon.
Please note that the fact that such items may be openly for sale in mainland China does not necessarily mean that they may be brought into Hong Kong.

Please visit the website of the Hong Kong Department of Customs and Excise at http://www.customs.gov.hk/eng/content_e.html for specific information regarding Hong Kong customs requirements.

Visitors to Hong Kong should be aware that the importation into the United States of counterfeit, brand-name items, such as watches, compact discs, computer software, and clothing, is prohibited by U.S. law.

U.S. Customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes.
For additional information, please or visit the U.S. Council for International Business web site for details at http://www.uscib.org/index.asp?documentID=718.

Dogs and cats may be brought into Hong Kong only with a special permit issued in advance.
Dogs and cats imported from the United States may be exempted from quarantine when they have valid health and vaccination certificates and the pets have been in the United States for at least six months.
Additional information on importing pets is available on the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department web site at http://www.afcd.gov.hk/english/quarantine/qua_ie/qua_ie_ipab/qua_ie_ipab.html.

Please see our Customs Information.

Dual Nationality: Under PRC nationality law, persons who are of Chinese descent and who were born in the mainland of China or Hong Kong are PRC citizens.
However, under an agreement between the United States and the PRC, all U.S. citizens entering Hong Kong on their U.S. passports, including such persons as may be considered PRC nationals by the PRC authorities, are considered U.S. citizens by the Hong Kong SAR authorities for purposes of ensuring consular access and protection.

Dual nationals, who are or previously were Hong Kong residents, and who wish to ensure U.S. consular access and protection after the initial 90-day period of admission into Hong Kong, must declare their U.S. nationality by presenting their U.S. passports to the Hong Kong Immigration Department and completing an application for declaration of change of nationality.
This declaration of change of nationality will ensure U.S. consular protection and may also result in loss of one’s Chinese nationality (but not necessarily one’s right of abode).
Although such individuals' failure to declare U.S. nationality may jeopardize U.S. consular protection, such failure will not jeopardize their U.S. citizenship.
Dual national residents of Hong Kong who enter Hong Kong on their Hong Kong identity cards rather than their U.S. passports and who desire to guarantee U.S. consular protection should declare their U.S. nationality to the Hong Kong Immigration Department as soon as possible after entry.

Dual nationals contemplating onward travel to PRC should be especially attentive to use of their U.S. passports, as the PRC authorities may require them to use the same document for entry into the PRC as they used to enter Hong Kong.
The Nationality Law of the PRC does not recognize dual nationality.
U.S. citizens, including such persons as may be considered Chinese nationals by the PRC authorities, who enter and depart the PRC using a U.S. passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular access and protection under the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention.
The ability of the U.S. Embassy or consulates general in the PRC to provide normal consular services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter the PRC on a non-U.S. passport.
Therefore, travelers should carefully consider whether or not to use a passport or travel document other than their U.S. passport.

For further information on consular protection and dual nationality please refer to our information on dual nationality.
Information on Hong Kong permanent residence may be obtained from the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s right of abode web page at http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hksarvepid.htm.

Typhoons:
During the storm season (July through September), the Hong Kong Observatory issues typhoon warnings on an average of six times a year and heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently.
The Hong Kong Observatory has a good notification and monitoring system in place.
Please consult the Hong Kong Observatory web site for further information at http://www.hko.gov.hk/contente.htm.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available at the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) web site at http://www.fema.gov/.
Please be advised that if Typhoon Signal 8 or above or Black Rainstorm Warning is announced by the Hong Kong Government, the Consulate General will be closed.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Hong Kong laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Hong Kong are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Hong Kong are encouraged to register with the U.S. Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Hong Kong.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Consulate is located at 26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong, 24-hour telephone number (852) 2523-9011.
Direct lines to American Citizen Services are (852) 2841-2211, 2841-2323, 2841-2225, fax (852) 2845-4845, email: acshk@state.gov.
The U.S. mailing address is PSC 461, Box 5, FPO, AP 96521-0006.
Please check the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong web site for current office hours at http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/
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This replaces the Specific Information for Hong Kong dated December 3, 2007 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances and Registration.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2020 10:43:58 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Feb 17, 2020 (AFP) - A gang of knife-wielding men jumped a delivery driver in Hong Kong and stole hundreds of toilet rolls, police said Monday, in a city wracked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying.   Toilet rolls have become hot property in the densely packed business hub, despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak.   Supermarkets have found themselves unable to restock quickly enough, leading to sometimes lengthy queues and shelves wiped clean within moments of opening.

There has also been a run on staples such as rice and pasta, as well as hand sanitiser and other cleaning items.     Police said a truck driver was held up early Monday by three men outside a supermarket in Mong Kok, a working-class district with a history of "triad" organised crime gangs.   "A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 ($130)," a police spokesman told AFP.   A police source told AFP the missing rolls were later recovered and two suspects were arrested on scene although it was not clear if they were directly involved in the armed robbery.

Footage from Now TV showed police investigators standing around multiple crates of toilet roll outside a Wellcome supermarket. One of the crates was only half stacked.   Hong Kongers reacted with a mixture of bafflement and merriment to the heist.   One woman passing by the scene of the crime who was interviewed by local TV station iCable quipped: "I'd steal face masks, but not toilet roll."   The city, which has 58 confirmed coronavirus cases, is currently experiencing a genuine shortage of face masks.    The hysteria that has swept through Hong Kong since the coronavirus outbreak exploded on mainland China is partly fuelled by the city's tragic recent history of confronting a deadly disease.

In 2003, some 299 Hong Kongers died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an outbreak that began on the mainland but was initially covered up by Beijing -- action that left a lasting legacy of distrust towards the authorities on public health issues.   The new coronavirus outbreak also comes at a time when the city's pro-Beijing leadership has historic low approval ratings after refusing to bow to months of angry pro-democracy protests last year.   Authorities have blamed online rumours for the panic-buying and say supplies of food and household goods remain stable.   But the panic-buying has itself created shortages in one of the world's most densely populated cities where supermarkets and pharmacies have limited
floor space.

Photos posted online have shown some people proudly stuffing their cramped city apartments with packets of hoarded toilet rolls.    On Sunday, the head of the city's Consumer Council warned people not to stockpile toilet rolls in their flats as they were prone to mould in the notoriously humid climate.   She also reiterated that there were ample stocks of paper.    Supermarket chain Wellcome called Monday's robbery a "senseless act", and called on people not to bulk buy or hoard toilet roll.    "We want to emphasize that we have sufficient toilet roll supply to meet demand," it said in a statement. "The temporary shortage was caused by the sudden and unusual surge in demand."
Date: Fri 7 Feb 2020
Source: South China Morning Post [edited]

A 7 year old boy in Hong Kong has been infected with H9 bird flu, adding to the health woes in a city already fearing a wider outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. The boy was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital's isolation ward. The Centre for Health Protection on Friday [7 Feb 2020] confirmed that the boy's nasal swab tested positive for the strain of avian flu, with the subtype still to be determined. The boy had recently returned to the city from mainland China.

The centre said the boy had underlying illnesses and developed a cough and runny nose on Tuesday [4 Feb 2020], which turned to a fever on Wednesday [5 Feb 2020]. He went for treatment at the outpatient ward at the Wang Tau Hom Jockey Club Clinic and was transferred to an isolation ward at Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei for further medical care. He was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital's isolation ward on Thursday [6 Feb 2020], where his condition was stable.

According to the centre's preliminary investigations, the patient had visited his grandparents' home in Shenzhen at the incubation stage of his viral infection. Although the family kept poultry in their house, the boy had not come into direct contact with the birds. His family members have not reported any  symptoms.

A Department of Health spokesperson said investigations were underway and the relevant medical staff at the clinic, ambulance and hospitals, as well as any possibly affected patients, had been placed under medical observation.

H9 is a seasonal influenza that is required by law to be reported to the city's health authorities. Hong Kong has in total recorded 8 H9N2 infections, the most recent an imported case in 2013. The virus is a relatively mild type of avian flu, and no local deaths have been recorded.

Hong Kong is also battling a strain of coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province. The flulike virus -- contracted by 31 500 people worldwide, mostly in the province -- has infected 26 people in the city, killing one.

Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, a private specialist in infectious disease, said he believed the boy was an isolated case. "If we see similar cases or many local birds dying of unknown causes, then that would warrant further concern," Tsang said.  [byline: Victor Ting]
*******************************
Date: Fri 7 Feb 2020
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

Hong Kong health officials reported an imported case of influenza A (H9) infection today [7 Feb 2020].

The patient, a 7 year old boy with underlying illnesses, developed a cough and runny nose on 4 Feb 2020 and fever on the next day. On 5 Feb 2020, he was brought to Wang Tau Hom Jockey Club General Outpatient Clinic (GOPC) for medical advice and was transferred to Kwong Wah Hospital (KWH), where he was admitted to the isolation ward for further management. He was transferred to the general ward of KWH yesterday [6 Feb 2020] and then was transferred to the isolation ward of Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment today [7 Feb 2020]. He has been in stable condition.

His nasopharyngeal swab tested positive for the influenza A (H9) virus upon testing. Subtyping result is pending. His clinical diagnosis was avian influenza.

Preliminary investigation by the CHP [Centre for Health Protection] revealed that the patient visited his maternal grandparents' home in Shenzhen during the incubation period, where backyard poultry was kept. However, the patient had no direct poultry contact recently, nor consumption of undercooked poultry or contact with patients. His home contacts have remained asymptomatic so far.

Novel influenza A infection, including influenza A(H9), is a notifiable infectious disease in Hong Kong. Eight cases of influenza A (H9N2) have been reported in the past, including 2 local cases in 1999, one local case each in 2003 and 2007, an imported case in 2008, an imported case and one with the source of infection unclassified in 2009, and one imported case in 2013. No deaths have been recorded so far. Influenza A (H9N2) infection is a mild form of avian influenza.
=====================
[As mentioned in the above report, A/H9 influenza is essentially an avian virus and not seasonal or human.

There are 9 known subtypes of H9 viruses (H9N1, H9N2, H9N3, H9N4, H9N5, H9N6, H9N7, H9N8, and H9N9); all H9 viruses identified worldwide in wild birds and poultry are LPAI viruses. H9N2 virus has been detected in bird populations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Rare, sporadic H9N2 virus infections in people have been reported to generally cause mild upper respiratory tract illness; one infection has resulted in death  (<https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/influenza-a-virus-subtypes.htm>).

It is critical that influenza viruses from animals and people are fully characterized in appropriate animal or human health influenza reference laboratories.

WHO guidelines, entitled "Protocol to investigate non-seasonal influenza and other emerging acute respiratory diseases", are available at  <https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/275657/WHO-WHE-IHM-GIP-2018.2-eng.pdf>.

Under WHO's Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) Framework, member states are expected to share their influenza viruses with pandemic potential on a regular and timely basis with the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), a WHO-coordinated network of public health laboratories. The viruses are used by the public health laboratories to assess the risk of pandemic influenza and to develop candidate vaccine viruses. - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Hong Kong:
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2020 11:32:23 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Feb 7, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong Airlines said Friday it has been forced to slash hundreds of jobs and ask remaining staff to take unpaid leave as the coronavirus outbreak compounds problems at the already-struggling firm.   The announcement by the city's number two carrier comes days after Cathay Pacific said it had asked all its 27,000 workforce to take three weeks leave without salary between March and June because of collapsing demand caused by the health crisis.   The virus, which has infected 24 people, one of whom died, comes just as the city was struggling to recover from months of sometimes violent protests that battered the economy and gutted the key tourism sector.   Hong Kong Airlines said in a statement that strict entry and quarantine measures imposed by countries around the world have further impacted travel demand in the city and the firm had to take "vigorous measures" to mitigate the challenges.

The company said it will lay off 400 employees, with the remainder asked to take a minimum of two weeks no-pay leave per month or work three days a week from February 17 until the end of June.    "There has never been a more challenging time in Hong Kong Airlines' history as of now," the company said in an email statement to AFP.   "As uncertainty looms with the evolving nature of this global issue, weak travel demand will likely continue into the summer season and we need to take further action to stay afloat."   The airline is owned by struggling Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which has been looking to lower its debt burden.    In November it announced it would delay salary payments to some staff as it struggled to find cash, triggering a warning from regulators that its licence might be at risk. While it managed to keep flying thanks to an injection of funds, it continues to struggle.   The coronavirus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, spread over the Lunar New Year holiday and has now killed more than 600 people in the country, with at least 31,000 infected.   The crisis has seen a number of governments around the world and in Asia block flights to and from Hong Kong, including popular destinations Taiwan and the Philippines.
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2020 11:06:24 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Feb 4, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong on Tuesday became the second place outside mainland China to report the death of a coronavirus patient as officials said they feared local transmissions were increasing in the densely populated city.    The coronavirus has killed more than 425 people in China since spreading from the central city of Wuhan late last year.   It has also spread to more than 25 countries.   Most of the deaths in China have been in Wuhan and the rest of surrounding Hubei province, much of which has been under lockdown for almost two weeks.

But on Tuesday Hong Kong medics confirmed a 39-year-old man being treated for the virus had died.   He was a Hong Kong resident who had travelled last month to Wuhan, returning home on January 23 via a high-speed rail link.   Officials said the man also had diabetes, but had been in stable until his condition suddenly deteriorated.   They said the precise cause of death was unclear and would be passed to the coroner.   So far the only other reported fatality outside of the Chinese mainland has been in the Philippines.

Hong Kong now has 17 confirmed infections, the majority people who were infected in mainland China.   But four cases are suspected to be local transmissions, including two people confirmed on Tuesday afternoon who have no history of recent travel to the mainland.    Chuang Shuk-kwan, from Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection, said the local transmissions were a cause for concern as it could suggest the city's outbreak was becoming self-sustaining.   "We can't rule out the possibility that there will be massive transmission in the near future. So the next 14 days are very critical," he told reporters.

On Monday, Hong Kong's leader announced the closure of all but two land border crossings to mainland China in a bid to halt the spread.   There has been growing public anger over the government's response to the outbreak, with calls to seal the border entirely -- including barring mainlanders from flying into the international airport.   There is also an acute shortage of masks, while a strike by some medical workers entered its second day on Tuesday with hospital authorities saying some 4,400 staff were absent -- including around 360 doctors and 2,500 nurses.   The authority said the strike was having a "serious impact".

While Hong Kong maintains close economic and cultural links to the Chinese mainland, a seething distrust of the authorities in Beijing permeates the city.   The 2003 outbreak of the SARS virus, which Beijing initially covered up, killed almost 300 people in Hong Kong and left lasting psychological scars on the densely populated city.
   Distrust -- and at times open hostility -- towards mainlanders has been worsened by years of political unrest as Hong Kongers chafe under Beijing's rule, and protest for greater democratic freedoms.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 04:03:51 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong's Disneyland announced it was shutting its doors on Sunday until further notice over the deadly virus outbreak in central China, a day after city authorities classified the crisis as an emergency.   "As a precautionary measure in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, we are temporarily closing Hong Kong Disneyland park out of consideration for the health and safety of our guests and cast members," the park said in a statement.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2020 11:56:28 +0100 (MET)

Tokyo, Feb 17, 2020 (AFP) - Organisers said Monday they are cancelling the amateur portion of the Tokyo marathon, affecting around 38,000 runners, on fears about the spread of the new coronavirus in Japan.   "We reached the conclusion that unfortunately it is difficult to organise the event... after several cases (of the virus) were confirmed in Tokyo," the Tokyo Marathon Foundation said in a statement.
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2020 10:59:27 +0100 (MET)

Cairo, Feb 17, 2020 (AFP) - Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh has welcomed the first British charter flights since 2015, when the Islamic State group's bombing of a Russian airliner dealt a devastating blow to the Red Sea resort.   Britain halted flights to Sharm el-Sheikh following the attack, which killed all 224 people on board the plane that took off from the resort, long popular with British tourists.

After multiple airport inspections and visits by aviation security experts, Britain announced in October that it was lifting the flight restrictions.   "Sharm el-Sheikh airport received the first two direct charter flights... from London's Gatwick airport carrying 184 passengers and Manchester airport carrying 190 passengers," Egypt's civil aviation ministry said in a statement late Sunday.    The flights were operated by Britain's biggest travel agency, TUI.

The company has scheduled three flights a week between London's Gatwick Airport and Sharm el-Sheikh until late March, the statement said.   British budget airline easyJet said in January it would restart flights to the resort town in June.   On Sunday, flag carrier EgyptAir said it would start operating a weekly flight between London and Sharm el-Sheikh later this month.   British tourists have long been vital to the tourism industry in Sharm el-Sheikh, which was left reeling after the airliner bombing.

Egypt has since sought to lure tourists back, boosting airport security and allowing international inspections of security procedures there.   Russia, another major source of tourists to Egypt, initially suspended all direct flights to the North African country following the attack.   It resumed direct flights to Cairo in 2018 but has yet to restart them to popular Red Sea resorts.   Egypt's tourism industry has shown signs of recovery in recent years with arrivals reaching 11.3 million in 2018, compared with 5.3 million in 2016.
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2020 10:43:58 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Feb 17, 2020 (AFP) - A gang of knife-wielding men jumped a delivery driver in Hong Kong and stole hundreds of toilet rolls, police said Monday, in a city wracked by shortages caused by coronavirus panic-buying.   Toilet rolls have become hot property in the densely packed business hub, despite government assurances that supplies remain unaffected by the virus outbreak.   Supermarkets have found themselves unable to restock quickly enough, leading to sometimes lengthy queues and shelves wiped clean within moments of opening.

There has also been a run on staples such as rice and pasta, as well as hand sanitiser and other cleaning items.     Police said a truck driver was held up early Monday by three men outside a supermarket in Mong Kok, a working-class district with a history of "triad" organised crime gangs.   "A delivery man was threatened by three knife-wielding men who took toilet paper worth more than HK$1,000 ($130)," a police spokesman told AFP.   A police source told AFP the missing rolls were later recovered and two suspects were arrested on scene although it was not clear if they were directly involved in the armed robbery.

Footage from Now TV showed police investigators standing around multiple crates of toilet roll outside a Wellcome supermarket. One of the crates was only half stacked.   Hong Kongers reacted with a mixture of bafflement and merriment to the heist.   One woman passing by the scene of the crime who was interviewed by local TV station iCable quipped: "I'd steal face masks, but not toilet roll."   The city, which has 58 confirmed coronavirus cases, is currently experiencing a genuine shortage of face masks.    The hysteria that has swept through Hong Kong since the coronavirus outbreak exploded on mainland China is partly fuelled by the city's tragic recent history of confronting a deadly disease.

In 2003, some 299 Hong Kongers died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an outbreak that began on the mainland but was initially covered up by Beijing -- action that left a lasting legacy of distrust towards the authorities on public health issues.   The new coronavirus outbreak also comes at a time when the city's pro-Beijing leadership has historic low approval ratings after refusing to bow to months of angry pro-democracy protests last year.   Authorities have blamed online rumours for the panic-buying and say supplies of food and household goods remain stable.   But the panic-buying has itself created shortages in one of the world's most densely populated cities where supermarkets and pharmacies have limited
floor space.

Photos posted online have shown some people proudly stuffing their cramped city apartments with packets of hoarded toilet rolls.    On Sunday, the head of the city's Consumer Council warned people not to stockpile toilet rolls in their flats as they were prone to mould in the notoriously humid climate.   She also reiterated that there were ample stocks of paper.    Supermarket chain Wellcome called Monday's robbery a "senseless act", and called on people not to bulk buy or hoard toilet roll.    "We want to emphasize that we have sufficient toilet roll supply to meet demand," it said in a statement. "The temporary shortage was caused by the sudden and unusual surge in demand."
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2020 10:11:30 +0100 (MET)

Tokyo, Feb 17, 2020 (AFP) - An additional 99 people have tested positive for coronavirus on a cruise ship off the Japan coast, Japanese media said Monday, citing new figures from the health ministry.   That would take the total number of positive cases on the Diamond Princess to 454. The health ministry declined to confirm the reports immediately.   It was also not clear whether the figures included 14 US citizens who tested positive for the virus but were allowed to board evacuation flights home.

The Diamond Princess vessel moored in Yokohama near Tokyo has become the second-largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside the epicentre in China.    Passengers have been largely confined to quarters since February 5 with only brief and occasional breaks to take air on deck -- with face masks.   The quarantine period is over on Wednesday but many countries have decided to repatriate their citizens after an alarming climb in cases on board.

The US was the first country to evacuate its citizens from the ship but Australia, Canada, Italy and Hong Kong have indicated they will follow suit.   On land, cases in Japan have risen to 65, with authorities warning that the outbreak is entering a "new phase" and advising people to avoid large gatherings.    A public celebration of the new emperor's birthday on Sunday has been scrapped and organisers of the Tokyo Marathon scheduled on March 1 are reportedly considering cancelling the amateur part of the race.
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2020 15:25:00 +0100 (MET)
By Benoît Pavan à Moûtiers avec Thomas Rossi dans les Pyrénées

Moûtiers, France, Feb 15, 2020 (AFP) - French protests at planned labour reforms hit ski resorts on Saturday, with chairlift operators and other seasonal staff downing tools over fears their livelihoods could be on a slippery slope.   Hundreds of staff at a clutch of resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees walked out in response to calls for action by the CGT and FO unions, forcing some runs to be closed or partially closed.   They are concerned that reforms extending the required period of employment before people are eligible for benefits, set to take effect from April 1, could stop thousands of seasonal workers from claiming.

Some voiced their protest in song at the bottom of pistes at Serre-Chevalier close to the Italian border, chanting: "We're going down the mountain to get rid of Macron," referring to French President Emmanuel Macron.   The French leader's attempts to overhaul pensions and welfare have led to months of bitter protests and strikes.    "Our situation will become even more precarious with these reforms," explained Christophe Dupuis, who works as a ski patroller at La Plagne, one of the world's most popular ski areas.   "We will need six months instead of four before we can apply for unemployment benefit," added Dupuis, who works as a lifeguard during the summer.   "We don't have six-month seasons, not least as the winter seasons are tending to get shorter rather than longer," said Maud Goret, a seasonal worker and CGT member at Font-Romeu in the Pyrenees -- where half the workforce had downed tools.

Many relatively low altitude resorts are suffering from a lack of snow owing to climate change, compounding fears over what the future holds.   As the workers voiced their grievances, further signs of the shortage of snow increasingly hitting resorts came as local authorities at Luchon-Superbagneres in the French southwest told AFP they had decided to have extra snow helicoptered in to three areas running short.

A union official said some 50 tons were being brought in for between 5,000 and 6,000 euros ($5,500-6,500) "in the knowledge that in terms of return on the investment you need to multiply that at least by ten," for an operation lasting around two-and-a-half hours.   He added that it might not be a "particularly ecological" solution but "we had no choice" at the height of the season when many children in French are on half-term holiday.
Date: Wed 12 Feb 2020
Source: Teresina Municipal Health Foundation [in Portuguese, machine trans., edited]

Health Surveillance Directorate - Epidemiology Management
---------------------------------------------------------
Given the laboratory confirmation of 5 human cases of melioidosis (ICD-10 A24.4) that occurred in the state of Piaui in 2019 (including one death), the FMS Health Surveillance Directorate recommends Hospital Infection Control Commissions, to the Hospital Surveillance Centers, public and private microbiology laboratories, infectious disease specialists, pulmonologists, microbiologists, biochemists and physicians in general who are attentive, immediately report any case with a result of a culture of biological material (blood culture, urine culture, wound culture, tracheal secretion, cerebrospinal fluid, bronchial lavage, ascitic fluid, abscess, tissues, etc.) positive for the bacterium _Burkholderia pseudomallei_ (or _Burkholderia_ sp.). The notification must be made through the individual notification form of SINAN (available at <http://portalsinan.saude.gov.br/images/documentos/Agravos/NINDIV/Notificacao_Individual_v5.pdf>) and sent to the FMS, with the code appended ICD10: A24.4.

The positive bacterial isolate should be sent to the Central Public Health Laboratory, Dr. Costa Alvarenga (LACEN - PI) for confirmatory examination (Nested - PCR), upon registration in the GAL system (research: _Burkholderia pseudomallei_ sample: swab), in swab with Stuart's medium, at room temperature, along with a copy of the notification form.
======================
[This 2016 article (Limmathurotsakul D, Golding N, Dance DA, et al., Predicted global distribution of _Burkholderia pseudomallei_ and burden of melioidosis. Nat Microbiol. 2016;1:15008. <https://doi.org/10.1038/nmicrobiol.2015.8>; article available at <http://www.nature.com/articles/nmicrobiol20158.pdf>) for 2015 estimates the burden of melioidosis for the areas of major and some risk as follows:

Area / Population at risk in millions / Melioidosis cases in thousands / Melioidosis deaths in thousands
South Asia / 1525 / 73 / 42
East Asia and Pacific / 858 / 65 / 31
Sub-Saharan Africa / 602 / 24 / 15
Latin America and Caribbean / 246 / 2 / 1
Middle East and North Africa / 49 / less than 1 / less than 1

Although a classical infection in eastern Asia and northern Australia, cases have been acquired in Africa, the Caribbean basin, Central America, and, as in this case, South America. - ProMED Mod.LL]

Date: Tue 11 Feb 2020
Source: SABC News [edited]

A 56-year-old was admitted at the Klerksdorp Tshepong Hospital on Saturday [8 Feb 2020] with a history of tick bite followed by flulike symptoms including headaches and fatigue.

The North West Health Department says while no active bleeding was noted, treatment was started immediately.

Crimean-Congo fever, also known as Congo fever/haemorrhagic fever, is a disease caused by a tick-borne virus with a case fatality rate of 10% to 40%.

Transmission to humans occurs through contact with infected animal blood or ticks. It can be transmitted from one infected human to another by contact with infectious blood or body fluids.

Symptoms include high fever, vomiting and abdominal pain, but as the illness progresses, large areas of severe bruising and severe nosebleeds are also common.

Clinical Manager at the Klerksdorp Hospital Dr. David Leburu says: "Crimean-Congo fever can make a person bleed. It can make people bleed just like Ebola but not as aggressive as Ebola."
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[Occupational groups such as herders, farmers, abattoir workers, veterinarians/animal health workers, hunters and persons informally slaughtering domestic/wild animals are at higher risk of infection. These persons often have exposure to ticks on the animals and in the animal environment, and also often have exposure to animal blood/tissues (e.g., during castration of calves, vaccination, notching/tagging of ears, slaughtering).

Humans can become infected in the following ways:
- Being bitten by infected ticks;
- Squashing infected ticks (if fluid from the ticks enters into cuts/grazes on the skin, or splashes onto mucous membranes, including the eyes, nose and mouth);
- If blood/tissue from infected animals (during the short period that the animals have virus in circulation) comes into contact with cuts/grazes on the skin, or splashes onto mucous membranes, including the eyes, nose and mouth;
- Needle-stick/sharps injuries in healthcare workers from infected patients.

The patient in the above report had a history of tick bite, but no other epidemiological information is available.

Human CCHF cases have been reported annually from South Africa since 1981, when it was first recognized in the country; between 0 and 20 cases of CCHF are reported each year. Through nearly 30 years of passive surveillance, more than 180 cases have been laboratory-confirmed. Although cases have been reported from all 9 provinces in the past 30 years, more than half of the cases originate from the semi-arid areas of Northern Cape Province (31.5% of cases) and Free State Province (23% of cases) (<http://www.nicd.ac.za/assets/files/CCHF_FAQ-General_Public.pdf>). - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
North West Province, South Africa:
Date: Wed 12 Feb 2020 05:23 PM EST
Source: ABC27/WHTM [edited]

Two Newberry Township [York County] men are getting treatments for rabies after a coyote that attacked them tested positive for the deadly virus.

One man was with his dog when the coyote attacked [Mon 10 Feb 2020] on Red Bank Road. The 2nd man was working nearby in his garage when the coyote entered and bit him.

A neighbour shot and killed the coyote the following day and gave the carcass to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. A test confirmed the animal was rabid.
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[[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Pennsylvania, United States:
Pennsylvania county map:

Rabies is a serious disease, and is always fatal in animals. In humans there is post exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which must be given within a prescribed amount of time. Individuals bitten by a rabid animal who do not seek treatment within the narrow window for PEP in all likelihood will die if they develop rabies. Heroic measures have succeeded in preserving the lives of only a handful of individual, and yet their live is never a complete return to normal.

Rabies is a serious disease and should be taken seriously by all individuals, whether you are a pet owner or not. Animal owners, regardless of whether your animal is a horse, or dog, or cow, or cat, or goat, or other animal, vaccinate the animal against this fatal disease. Protect your investment in your farm animals, and protect yourself by vaccinating farm animals and pets.

Rabies can be in wildlife, as these stories note. However, we seldom get one involving an otter. While otters are cute and playful on the nature programs, they are susceptible to rabies, as is any mammal, so it is imperative we be alert to the animals around us, no matter where we are or what animal is involved. - ProMED Mod.TG]
Date: Sat 8 Feb 2020 05:16 PM EST
Source: Fox 8 [edited]

A Florida mom says she had to tackle an otter to protect her daughter and dog, WFLA reports. We don't often hear about aggressive river otters. But by fighting its way inside a home in Florida, experts say the otter was definitely not acting normal.  "My husband's like 'you just alligator wrangled an otter in the living room!'" [CE] said. The otter learned to not mess with a mother's instincts. "I think life is full of surprises, and you should just be ready for whatever," [she] said.

The story starts after 17-year old [GE] let their dog Scooter out before dawn Tuesday morning [4 Feb 2020]. Scooter had found an enemy.  "I sprinted to the backdoor, and I was like 'Scooter!' All I saw was like a big black ball just all over the place. So he stumbled in the door, and I tried to shut it as fast as possible, but then the otter got stuck," [GE] said.

By this time, the whole house is awake and her mother bursts in.  "I snatched it by the tail," [CE] said. "And then I held it up like a prize. And the otter's going crazy. It was like clawing at me and grabbing on to the backs of the furniture in my house." [CE] tossed the otter outside and discovered it had bit her daughter in the leg.

Several rabies shots later, [GE] and Scooter are on the mend. Now Florida Fish and Wildlife is trying to find the otter. It is unknown whether the otter has rabies because it has not been caught. His behaviour was definitely abnormal.  "Any time an otter's onshore going for a human, there's something not right. Usually, they see you, they're gone," said Dustin Hooper, an animal trapper, and owner of All Creatures Wildlife Control.
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Florida, United States:
Florida county map:
Date: Tue 4 Feb 2020
Source: Robesonian [edited]

A 9-year-old boy is undergoing treatment after being bitten by a rabid fox, according to the [Robeson] County Department of Public Health.

The boy was riding his bicycle Sunday evening [2 Feb 2020] on Barnhill Road in Lumberton when he was attacked by a fox, according to the Health Department. The fox was killed at the scene and its head was submitted for testing on [Mon 3 Feb 2020]. The results came back positive for rabies on [Tue 4 Feb 2020].

The boy will undergo a series of shots to prevent the onset of rabies, according to the Health Department. Area residents have been alerted and advised to monitor their children's and pets' activities.

According to the Health Department release, Sunday's bite case was properly reported "and as such, the system responded correctly. After-hour calls go to communications who contact the Animal Control officer on call."

Sunday's attack by a rabid wild animal is the 1st confirmed case of rabies in Robeson County this year [2020], said Bill Smith, Health Department director.

"I believe we had 3 this past year," he said. Those cases were animal-on-animal attacks, Smith said. "I think they were all pets last year," he said.

County residents need to be aware there are many more rabid animals in the area, he said. But the rate of confirmed contact between rabid animals and humans or pets is low because Robeson County is a rural county with large tracts of forests.

In rural areas the most likely scenario is an animal attacking a pet or human and then running into the woods, where it will die without anyone knowing if it had rabies or not, Smith said. In urban areas, there is more contact between humans and pets and animals known to be rabid because the attacking animal has no woods into which to run and hide. Therefore, the animal is easier to catch and test.

If someone is bitten by an animal that runs into the woods and is not caught and tested then precautions have to be taken, he said.

"We would treat that as a rabid animal," Smith said.

Sunday's incident prompted the county Health Department to issue the following advisories:
- all dogs, cats, and ferrets 4 months and older are required to be vaccinated against rabies and wear a current rabies vaccination tag per North Carolina law;
- if an animal is destroyed, try not to damage the head because it jeopardizes the testing of the brain;
- avoid feeding wild animals. Foxes and raccoons are the main sources of rabies in the Robeson County area and feeding them increases the likelihood of interaction between the wildlife and dogs, cats and humans.
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of North Carolina, United States:
North Carolina county map: