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Wuhan Coronavirus: Hong Kong Asks Employers to Let Staff Work from Home, as Leisure Facilities Closed Until Further Notice

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Tom Grundy | Hong Kong Free Press

Hong Kong has asked employers to allow their staff to work from home from Wednesday, when the Lunar New Year holiday ends, owing to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Government-run leisure and cultural facilities are also set to close on Wednesday until further notice.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department announced early on Tuesday that facilities will close until further notice, including all “sports centers, sports grounds, grass pitches, artificial turf soccer pitches, tennis courts, squash courts, bowling greens, golf facilities, public swimming pools, beaches, Tuen Mun Recreation and Sports Centre, water sports centers and holiday camps.”

Cultural venues will also close, including “museums, performance venues, public libraries, and their study rooms, mobile libraries, and music centers of the Music Office,” the statement said.

Environmental Protection Department facilities such as the T-Park will also close.

The facilities were closed under the government’s Preparedness and Response Plan for Novel Infectious Disease of Public Health Significance after the alert level was raised to “emergency.”

The Happy Valley race meeting on Wednesday is still set to go ahead, though other events such as the Hong Kong Marathon next month have been canceled.

Meanwhile, government workers – except for those working in departments providing emergency services and essential public services – will not be required to return to their offices on Wednesday.

“The measure will be implemented tentatively until February 2. The Government will review the situation before then,” a spokesperson said, adding that private sector employers should make arrangements to follow suit.

The health department’s Centre for Health Protection said 451 cases currently meet the reporting criteria for new viruses, with eight confirmed cases. 276 cases have been ruled out and 167 individuals were still undergoing tests, as of Monday.

The atypical form of pneumonia was first detected at a street market in Wuhan. It bears characteristics similar to SARS, which killed over 300 people in Hong Kong in 2003.

Strike action

On Tuesday, a group of 15 unions – including Hospital Authority and aviation workers – will call upon the government to tighten or close the border and suspend work to protect public health.

The city saw 155,254 arrivals by sea and land from mainland China on Tuesday.

Some protesters have also called for a general strike on Wednesday, urging the government to close the border.

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