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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: Thu 19 Mar 2020, 8:15 PM HKT
Source: Press release, Government of Hong Kong SAR [edited]

A spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today [Thu 19 Mar 2020] that a pet dog sent to the AFCD has repeatedly tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. This is another infected case following an earlier case in which a 17-year-old Pomeranian dog tested weak positive during repeated tests for the virus.[see comment].

The current case involves a German Shepherd dog that lived in a residence at Pok Fu Lam. When the owner was confirmed with COVID-19, the dog was sent for quarantine with another mixed breed dog from the same residence to the animal keeping facility at the Hong Kong Port of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge yesterday (18 Mar 2020). No positive results were obtained from the mixed breed dog and neither dog has shown any signs of disease.

The Department will continue to closely monitor both dogs and conduct repeated tests on the animals.

The AFCD will continue to work together with the Department of Health in handling relevant cases. To ensure public and animal health, the Department strongly advises that mammalian pet animals including dogs and cats from households with persons confirmed as infected with COVID-19, or close contacts of COVID-19 infected persons, should be put under quarantine in AFCD facilities.

The spokesman reminded pet owners to adopt good hygiene practices (including handwashing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing them) and to maintain a clean and hygienic household environment. People who are sick should restrict contact with animals. If there are any changes in the health condition of the pets, advice from a veterinarian should be sought as soon as possible.

The spokesman emphasised that there is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of COVID-19 for humans or that this virus can cause the disease in dogs. Pet owners should always maintain good hygiene practices and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets.
====================
[This is the 2nd case of a domestic dog in Hong Kong, owned by a COVID-19 patient, undergoing tests for the pandemic's virus. Data of the 1st case involved was included in an interim summary which became available in an official report dated 12 Mar 2020 (see http://promedmail.org/post/20200312.7081842):

"The AFCD collected samples from the dog 5 times for tests since late February [2020] and detected low levels of the COVID-19 virus from its nasal and oral cavity samples. A blood sample was also taken from the dog on [3 Mar 2020] for serological testing and the result is negative. The negative result indicates that there is not a strong immune response and that there are no measurable amounts of antibodies in the blood at this stage.

"The negative serological test result does not suggest that the dog has not been infected with the virus. It is known in some asymptomatic or mild cases of human infections with other types of coronavirus that antibodies may not always develop. It is also not uncommon in the earlier stages of infections to have a negative result as it often takes 14 days or more for measurable levels of antibodies to be detected. Another blood sample will be taken later for further testing".

"On the other hand, the Department, together with the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong, has conducted gene sequencing of the COVID-19 virus found from the dog and its close contact persons who were confirmed infected. The viral sequences are very similar. The sequence results indicate that the virus likely spread from the infected persons and subsequently infected the dog.

"The dog has not shown any signs of the disease related to COVID-19. It is currently under quarantine at the animal keeping facility at the Hong Kong Port of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. The Department will continue to closely monitor the dog which tested weakly positive for the COVID-19 virus and repeat the test later. It will only be returned to its owner when the test result is negative. The Department has stepped up cleansing and disinfection of the facility."

Unfortunately, the said elderly Pomeranian died on Mon [16 Mar 2020], 2 days after it was released (Sat 14 Mar 2020) from quarantine following the recovery of its owner and "after further tests produced negative results". According to AFCA's report, the cause of death couldn't be determined since the owner declined to conduct an autopsy (media report at <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-18/hong-kong-dog-tested-for-coronavirus-dies-after-quarantine>). Hence, serological and clinical follow-up has become impossible. Though the cause of death is unknown, it may be assumed that it is related to the very old age of the animal and not necessarily to the dog's COVID-19 history.

The age, gender and detailed timeline of the current, 2nd case (German shepherd) will help in assessing the significance of the PCR results and of the information obtained in relation to the 1st case. Such information is of relevance to households with pets, to their medics and their vets in all COVID-19-affected countries. - ProMed Mod.AS]
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.
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2020 16:10:44 +0200 (METDST)

London, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Britain on Saturday reported 708 more deaths from COVID-19 in a new daily high, as the number of confirmed cases rose to nearly 42,000.   The health ministry said 4,313 people who tested positive for the virus in hospital had died as of 1600 GMT Friday while there were 41,903 confirmed cases as of 0800 GMT Saturday, up 3,735.   The toll has been steadily increasing at more than over 500 deaths a day this week and the country is bracing for an expected peak in the next week to 10 days.   Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is in self-isolation after developing mild symptoms of the disease, ordered a three-week lockdown of the country on March 23 to try to cut infections.

But there has been concern that warmer weather forecast for this weekend could tempt people from their homes to green spaces and public parks.   "I just urge you not to do that," Johnson said in a video message on Friday. "Please, please stick with the guidance now."   Health Secretary Matt Hancock also warned against any relaxation in social distancing. "If we do, people will die," he told a daily briefing on the government's response on Friday.   A special address on the crisis by Queen Elizabeth II is to be broadcast on Sunday evening.

Imperial College London epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who is advising the government, told BBC radio on Saturday a peak was expected around the Easter weekend.   "We still think things will plateau but we'll be at quite high levels of infection for weeks and weeks rather than seeing quite a rapid decline as the type seen in China," he said.   But he said that was dependent on people staying at home. If that happened, it could lead to less stringent measures in place "at least by the end of May", he added.

The announcement of another record rise in deaths came after 13 residents at a care home in Glasgow died in one week in a suspected outbreak of coronavirus.   The Burlington Court Care Home in the Cranhill area of the city said those who died had underlying medical conditions and two staff members were being treated for COVID-19.

Tests for coronavirus are currently carried out on the most serious cases that require hospital treatment, suggesting the true extent of confirmed cases and deaths is an under-estimate.   The government meanwhile announced that up to 4,000 low-risk prisoners near the end of their sentence could be release from jails in England and Wales to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.   A total of 88 prisoners and 15 prison staff have tested positive for the virus, and there is concern it could spread rapidly because of shared cells and overcrowding.   The justice ministry said those released would be electronically tagged and temporarily released on licence in stages. High-risk offenders will not be considered for early release.
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2020 15:38:20 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Saturday the extension of the country's lockdown until April 25 in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.   "The cabinet on Tuesday will again ask for authorisation from parliament to extend for a second time the state of alert until Saturday April 25 at midnight,' Sanchez said in a televised speech.
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2020 15:26:30 +0200 (METDST)

Istanbul, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Turkey stepped up controls Saturday on crowded public spaces including markets and ferries in Istanbul a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed the use of face masks to curb the coronavirus outbreak.    Turkey has so far recorded 425 coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 21,000 cases, most of them in the country's economic capital Istanbul, according to official figures.   From Saturday, all those going out to shops or markets must wear a face mask, Erdogan said, calling on the population to maintain a distance of "three paces" from each other when outside.

At an Istanbul bazaar in the Besiktas neighbourhood open every Saturday, police and local municipal employees handled the use of masks and hand disinfectants, while checking the temperature of incoming customers at the entrance.   Veli Yildirim, 50, who sells vegetables including tomatoes, said the measures came "too late."   "We are the latest compared to the rest of the world. Even this is not enough, there should be a complete lockdown" in Istanbul, he told AFP.    A 60-year-old customer in the bazaar, Asuman Karaman wearing a mask, agreed: "If these measures had been taken one or two months earlier, maybe the virus would not have been so widespread."   The bazaar looked quite calm -- in stark contrast to its usual noisy and crowded state.

Vendors complained their business was hit badly.    "This has a had a big impact, there is no one at the market, at this time of the day, we have nothing to do here," said Abbas Kose, who sells vine leaves.   At the ferries in Istanbul, passengers were seen wearing face masks.    The city's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has been calling for total confinement but authorities have so far stopped short of that.    As part of the measures taken nationwide, authorities suspended international flights, issued a confinement order for everyone aged under 20 and over 65 and shut schools.   Erdogan on Friday also said vehicles would no longer be able to leave or enter 31 towns and cities, including Istanbul, for 15 days.
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2020 15:22:33 +0200 (METDST)

Geneva, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Switzerland on Saturday saw the number of cases of the new coronavirus in the country pass 20,000, as its death toll in the pandemic swelled past 500.   The health ministry said 20,201 people in Switzerland had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday morning -- nearly 1,000 more than a day earlier.   The small Alpine country of some 8.5 million people is thus one of the worst hit compared to population size, now counting 236 registered infections per 100,000 people.    At the same time, an additional 76 people died over the past 24 hours, bringing Switzerland's death toll in the pandemic to 540, the health ministry said.   "We have not yet reached the peak," health ministry official Daniel Koch told reporters.

Worldwide, well over 1.1 million cases have been registered across 188 countries, while close to 60,000 people have died, according to a tally compiled by AFP Saturday from official sources.   The high incidence in Switzerland could in part be linked to the fact that it is among the countries that have administered most tests per capita.   Since the first case surfaced in the country on February 24, more than 150,000 tests have been administered with around 15 percent coming up positive.   Drive-in testing stations have been set up in several places, including in the capital Bern, to help simplify safe testing for COVID-19.   In the past 24 hours, the country has conducted nearly 7,000 tests, including 975 that were positive, the health ministry said.

Switzerland's southern canton of Ticino, which borders hard-hit Italy, has registered most cases, followed by Geneva.   As in other countries, men seemed to suffer more from the virus. Slightly more women had tested positive for the virus, but men accounted for 64 percent of the deaths, the ministry found.   Switzerland has unblocked some $60 billion to buffer the harsh blow to its economy from the pandemic and the measures taken to halt the spread of the virus.   The economic affairs ministry said Saturday some 1.3 million people, or a quarter of the country's workforce, have applied for temporary unemployment benefits since the start of the crisis.
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2020 07:04:32 +0200 (METDST)

Honiara, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - At least 28 ferry passengers were swept overboard in a powerful storm off the Solomon Islands, reports said Saturday, with the captain unaware he had lost anyone until the boat docked.   The passengers were heading from the capital Honiara to West Are'are, more than 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, under a government programme to evacuate people to their home villages during the global coronavirus epidemic.

The MV Taimareho set sail on Thursday night as tropical cyclone Harold bore down on the Solomons, and with weather forecasters warning against any unnecessary voyages.   But the captain ignored advice not to sail, the nation's leader said, as survivors reported dozens of people were swept overboard by huge waves and strong winds. Local media put the death toll at 28.

But police said it was impossible to verify the number.   "Initial reports say the captain of the boat had no knowledge of the missing people until he was informed when the boat arrived at her destination at Are'are," police marine department chief Charles Fox Sau said.    "At this stage we cannot confirm how many people are missing as the investigation into this sad incident continues."

In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Manasseh Sovagare said a search and rescue operation was under way.    "It is with deep regret to learn that a number of passengers are missing at sea after being washed overboard from a passenger vessel which departed ... from Honiara, despite the several weather warnings issued," he said.    Disaster authorities in the Solomons, which has limited healthcare facilities, have been stretched as they prepared for the impact of coronavirus while the region was being battered by tropical cyclone Harold.

The island nation, with a population of just over 600,000, is one of a dwindling number of countries where there have been no reported coronavirus cases so far.   Harold, packing winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour (100 mph), downed trees and damaged homes before heading away and was expected to intensify before reaching Vanuatu late Sunday.   Although the government has not yet completed a damage assessment, Australia has donated Aus$100,000 (US$60,000) in immediate emergency funding.
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 2020 06:20:31 +0200 (METDST)

London, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - The Falklands Islands government has confirmed the territory's first case of the new coronavirus.   A patient tested positive after being admitted to hospital with symptoms on March 31, according to a statement released on Friday that said they were in isolation and in "stable condition".   Located in the southern Atlantic Ocean, the British overseas territory had been among a dwindling number of remote places that have reported no COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

Health authorities in the Falklands -- home to 3,400 people -- have been sending samples to the UK for testing, the statement said.   "In some respects we are fortunate that we have been COVID-19 free until now, as we have taken this time to plan our approach," Chief Medical Officer Dr Rebecca Edwards said.   "We have reorganised the hospital and staffing arrangements, and put our supplies and pharmaceuticals in place, which many countries were not in a position to do before they identified their first cases."

The disparate group of places to officially remain untouched by the pandemic include Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica.   Argentina, which invaded and briefly occupied the territory in 1982, claims sovereignty over the islands and calls them Las Islas Malvinas.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 23:54:18 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo is prepared to take part in testing of any future vaccine against the coronavirus, the head of the country's taskforce against the pandemic said on Friday.   "We've been chosen to conduct these tests," said the head of the national biological institute, Jean-Jacques Muyembe.    "The vaccine will be produced in the United States, or in Canada, or in China. We're candidates for doing the testing here," Muyembe told a news briefing in comments that sparked controversy in DR Congo amid charges the population was being used as guinea pigs.

Muyembe suggested that clinical trials could begin in July or August.    "At some point, COVID-19 will be uncontrollable," the virologist said.   "The only way to control it will be a vaccine, just like Ebola. It was a vaccine that helped us end the Ebola epidemic."   Muyembe's comments came as two leading French doctors came under a storm of criticism after discussing on a television programme the idea of testing a vaccine for coronavirus in Africa.   Camille Locht, head of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Lille, and Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at the Cochin hospital in Paris, suggested that Africa offered better conditions for testing the vaccine.

Their remarks sparked furious criticism, with the French anti-racism NGO, SOS Racisme, saying, "No, Africans aren't guinea pigs".    Even former international and Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba joined in.    "It is inconceivable that we continue to accept this. Africa is not a laboratory. I strongly denounce these very serious, racist and contemptuous words," the former Chelsea and Marseille striker wrote on his Facebook page and on Twitter.   "Help us save lives in Africa and stop the spread of the virus that is destabilising the whole world instead of seeing us as guinea pigs. It is absurd."   The tenth Ebola epidemic in DR Congo is set to be declared over on April 12, after it killed more than 2,200 people in the east of the country since its outbreak on August 1, 2018.    More than 320,000 people were given two different experimental vaccines to stop the spread.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 21:56:23 +0200 (METDST)

Libreville, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Gabon on Friday banned the sale and eating of bats and pangolins, which are suspected of sparking the novel coronavirus in China where they are highly prized in traditional medicine.   President Ali Bongo Ondimba also announced the government was planning to lock down the capital Libreville and unveiled an emergency package for those hard hit by the pandemic.   The novel coronavirus is believed to have come from bats, but researchers think it might have spread to humans via another mammal.   Pangolins are critically endangered and have long been protected, but they are sold in the markets of the capital Libreville, as are bats, and their meat is popular.

The central African nation is 88 percent covered in forest and hunting and bush meat have long been a way of life.   The water and forest ministry said the novel coronavirus was a "combination of two different viruses, one close to bats and the other closer to pangolins", and claimed to be quoting a scientific study published in Nature.   Gabon has declared 21 COVID-19 infections, but none from animals, the ministry said.   "A similar decision was taken by the authorities when our country was affected by the Ebola virus -- a ban on eating primates," Forestry Minister Lee White said.

The national parks agency ANPN announced in mid-March that tourists would no longer be allowed to interact with great apes to avoid any risk of contamination by the coronavirus.   The pangolin, the world's most heavily trafficked mammal, also called the scaly anteater, is believed to have possibly been a vector in the leap of the novel coronavirus from animal to human at a market in China's Wuhan city last year.   Its body parts fetch a high price on the black market as they are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, although scientists say they have no therapeutic value.

Gabon has also put in place a raft of measures such as grounding international flights, closing schools and ordering a night curfew to stop the spread of the coronavirus.   On Friday, Bongo said Libreville would be put under lockdown "in the coming days" but gave no precise date.   All but one of Gabon's reported 21 cases are in the city, where a large proportion of the country's two million residents live.   Bongo also announced an aid package of 250 billion CFA francs (380 million euros) to help both individuals and businesses whose livelihoods have suffered because of the crisis.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 20:36:36 +0200 (METDST)

Istanbul, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday issued a mandatory confinement order for everyone aged under 20 starting from midnight, as part of tougher measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Turkey.    In a television address, Erdogan also announced that vehicles would no longer be able to leave or enter 31 towns and cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, for 15 days.   People aged over 65 or those with chronic medical conditions are already subject to mandatory confinement in Turkey.    "Throughout the country, people aged under 20, that is to say born after January 1, 2000, will not be allowed to go out on the street" from midnight on Friday, Erdogan said.

Also, from Saturday, all those going out to shops or markets will be obliged to wear a face mask, the Turkish leader added, calling on the population to maintain a distance of "three paces" from each other when outside.   Turkey has registered over 20,000 coronavirus cases, 425 of which have been fatal.   Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned on Friday that the country is just at the beginning of the outbreak, which has left over 50,000 people dead worldwide.   More than half of the Turkish cases have been in the economic capital Istanbul, which has a population of around 16 million people.

The city's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has been calling for total confinement.    Erdogan's announcements on Friday are the latest moves to stem the spread of the virus in Turkey in recent weeks.   Schools have been closed down, flights grounded and gatherings banned.   Next week the Turkish parliament is set to consider a draft law to free 90,000 prisoners, a third of the population of the overcrowded prisons.   It will concern several categories of prisoners, among them pregnant women and older people with medical conditions.   But it excludes convicted murderers, sexual offenders and narcotics criminals, as well as political prisoners charged under Turkey's controversial anti-terrorism laws.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 11:49:00 +0200 (METDST)

Singapore, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Singapore will close schools and workplaces while people are being told to stay home, as the city-state ramps up curbs to stem the spread of coronavirus, the premier said Friday.   The country has won praise for its handling of the outbreak, and had largely kept the crisis in check by carrying out large numbers of tests and tracing close contacts of those infected.   Authorities had slowly been introducing curbs, such as closing bars and nightclubs, but had so far avoided the kind of tough restrictions seen in worse-hit nations.

However, after a jump in the number of locally transmitted cases in recent days, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was time to apply a "circuit breaker" to halt the virus's spread.   Workplaces except for essential services, such as supermarkets and hospitals, and those deemed to be in key economic sectors will be closed from Tuesday, he said in a televised address.

Schools will also be closed from next week except for children of those who have to continue to work and cannot make alternative arrangements, he said.   People are being told to stay at home as much as possible, and only go out for essentials -- such as buying food and getting exercise.   "Looking at the trend, I am worried that unless we take further steps, things will gradually get worse, or another big cluster may push things over the edge," Lee said.   Singapore has reported 1,114 virus infections including five deaths. Globally, the number of confirmed cases has soared past one million and deaths have topped 50,000.