Hong Kong to shut football pitches, museums

HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong said yesterday it was closing a range of public facilities from sports centres to campsites in a bid to curb the spread of a SARS-like virus that has left more than 100 dead across China.

All recreational facilities will be temporarily shut from today to “avoid people gathering”, authorities said.

The financial hub has declared the novel coronavirus a public “emergency” and last Saturday announced ramped-up measures to reduce the risk of more infections.

Eight people in Hong Kong are known to be suffering from the illness. Of those, six arrived via a newly built high-speed train line that connects the city to the Chinese mainland.

Sports centres, grounds, swimming pools, beaches, campsites and cultural facilities including museums will all close. The city’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department said events at these locations would be cancelled until further notice.

Officials have also announced that all schools will extend their Lunar New Year holiday to mid-February and civil servants have been told to work from home.

People travelling to the semi-autonomous city from Hubei province in central China – the epicentre of the outbreak – as well as any who have visited the virus-hit area in the last two weeks, were denied entry to Hong Kong from Monday.

But there are growing calls from some politicians and medical experts for a complete shutdown of the mainland border to those not from Hong Kong.

“The epidemic has spread to many Chinese provinces. Only blocking visitors from Hubei can’t do much to help Hong Kong,” pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong said yesterday.

People queue up to purchase face masks outside a shop in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP