Hong Kong on Friday said it will deploy an army of volunteers to bolster plans to forcibly quarantine all arrivals from mainland China, warning that anyone caught breaching the new rules faces up to six months prison.
In a major escalation of its battle against the new coronavirus, the financial hub has said anyone arriving from the mainland from Saturday will have to undergo 14 days quarantine.
Officials hope the new measures will virtually halt all cross-border traffic while allowing the city to remain stocked with food and goods from the mainland.
Cabinet Ministers unveiled the quarantine plans just six hours before the new policy was due to come on.
Hong Kong residents arriving from mainland China will be allowed to self-quarantine at home. Chinese and international visitors will be able to self-quarantine at hotels or any other accommodation they have arranged.
“If they cannot arrange accommodation, they will be taken to the temporary facilities prepared by the government,” health secretary Sophia Chan said.
Anyone who has been to mainland China in the past 14 days and then flies into Hong Kong from another destination will also be quarantined.
Officials – backed by volunteers from the civil service and some students – will conduct spot checks or make daily phone calls to ensure people were staying at home.
Those caught breaking their quarantine face up to six months in jail and a HK$25,000 ($3,200) fine.
“We will be stopping a lot of people with the new measures,” Security Minister John Lee said.Meanwhile, the city has been hit by a wave of panic-buying in recent days with supermarket shelves frequently emptied of crucial goods such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser, rice and pasta.