Hong Kong steps up response to disease from China

File photo of Hong Kong Lab

HONG KONG: Hong Kong authorities activated a newly created ‘serious response’ level as fears spread about a mysterious infectious disease that may have been brought back by visitors to a mainland Chinese city.

Five possible cases have been reported of a viral pneumonia that has also infected at least 44 people in Wuhan, an inland city west of Shanghai and about 900 kilometers (570 miles) north of Hong Kong.

The outbreak has revived memories of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, which started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in the mainland, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

The serious response level indicates a moderate impact on Hong Kong’s population. It is the second highest in a three-tier system that is part of a new government response plan launched Saturday for infectious diseases of unknown cause.

The city’s health department added an additional thermal imaging system at Hong Kong’s airport on Friday to check the body temperature of arriving passengers.

More staff have been assigned for temperature checks at the high-speed rail station that connects Hong Kong to the mainland.