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Source: Hong Kong Information Services

A second batch of 36 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government officers has flown to Japan to help Hong Kong residents quarantined for the novel coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

They were deployed to join the advance team of 30 officers led by Under Secretary for Security Sonny Au and Director of Immigration Erick Tsang who arrived in Tokyo on February 17 to prepare for today’s operation to bring the Hong Kong residents home on free chartered flights.

The Hong Kong SAR Government said it attaches great importance to this operation which is personally led by Mr Tsang with the support of 50 Immigration Department officers.

A total of eight medical and nursing professionals from the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA) have joined the operation to ensure that it goes smoothly and that the Hong Kong residents’ health needs are being well taken care of during the journey.

The advance team met representatives of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office (ETO) in Tokyo and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Japan to discuss collaboration for the operation.

The Hong Kong SAR Government also met cruise operator and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan representatives to learn more about the arrangements and schedule for disembarking the passengers.

It also relayed concrete demands to the Japanese authorities, including seeking early confirmation on whether the Hong Kong residents who tested negative for the virus can be released as a whole group on February 19, and the list of Hong Kong residents who are the confirmed cases’ close contacts and thereby subject to an extended quarantine period, as well as their quarantine dates and arrangements.

In the event that the concerned Hong Kong residents cannot leave as a whole group on February 19, the Japanese authorities have been requested to prioritise those who have opted to take the chartered flights back to Hong Kong for disembarkation on February 19.

Mr Tsang said: “Colleagues of the Immigration Department together with the Tokyo ETO, DH and HA have prepared, and the two chartered flights arranged by the HKSAR Government would be ready today. However, up till now, there are still many uncertainties on the arrangements of the Japanese side, including whether the Japanese authorities can have the results of the virus tests for all passengers ready by today as planned, and whether the Hong Kong residents on board are permitted to disembark as a whole group on February 19.

“We have made our demands to the Japanese authorities and are pending their response. In the meantime, we are preparing for different possible scenarios. We will make our best effort to bring the affected Hong Kong residents back to Hong Kong as early as possible and provide support to those who cannot leave for the time being.”

As of February 18, a total of 542 passengers onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan have been confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus.

There are 352 Hong Kong residents onboard, including 260 Hong Kong SAR passport holders and 92 holding a foreign passport, among them 50 are confirmed novel coronavirus infection cases.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, transport will be arranged to transfer the passengers from Hong Kong International Airport to the quarantine centre.

For any individual who does not take a chartered flight to Hong Kong, the person will be referred to the Port Health Division for assessment as soon as they return to the city and may be subject to a maximum of 14 days’ quarantine in a designated quarantine centre depending on the situation.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News