- Health chiefs to share information after document purporting to show the addresses spreads online
- But director insists cases in question pose a low risk
Hong Kong health chiefs will publish the names of buildings housing people under quarantine amid the coronavirus epidemic by Friday at the earliest, a government source has said, a day after a document purporting to show the locations spread online.
But the city's health director pointed out that the cases in question posed only a "low health risk", having been quarantined upon arrival from mainland China, showing no symptoms.
A separate list, of hotels accommodating quarantined visitors, would also go online.
A list of 5,875 buildings housing people under quarantine circulated widely on social media on Thursday evening, sparking panic and confusion among some residents.
The northwestern town of Yuen Long had the biggest share of the buildings, at 563. Sham Shui Po came second with 541 and Yau Tsim Mong third with 538. Southern district had the fewest, with just 102 buildings.
At a press conference on Friday, Director of Health Constance Chan Hon-yee refused to confirm the authenticity of the list, but said officials would put the information on government websites after compiling the data of all people placed under home quarantine.
The government previously published a smaller list of addresses of people quarantined having shown symptoms and come from Wuhan, the centre of the viral outbreak which has spread to countries across the world. This larger list concerns people who arrived from the mainland generally, and who showed no symptoms.
Chan tried to alleviate public concerns, saying: "The department has issued more than 10,000 quarantine orders … but those people showed no symptoms and passed temperature screening upon entry from mainland China, and are not close contacts (of confirmed patients).
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"The group poses a low health risk, and their family members do not need to be quarantined. Officials have also reminded them to maintain personal and environmental hygiene."
A government source said an updated list would be made public as soon as Friday afternoon.
Details were also expected to be shown on the government dashboard built for the epidemic, which also covers the latest confirmed, reported and discharged local cases.
"The list is being updated and will be published later today at the earliest," the source said.
By Friday, Covid-19 had infected 93 people in the city, killing two, and infected more than 83,200 people worldwide.
The government mandated home quarantines for people crossing the mainland border in two waves. From January 8, it required anyone with symptoms of fever, respiratory infection or pneumonia who had been to Wuhan in the previous 14 days to be isolated at home.
It beefed that up a month later, mandating a 14-day quarantine for all locals returning from mainland China, at their home, a hotel or a quarantine camp.
The list of buildings to be newly released covers the latter group of people. The Department of Health previously published addresses for the former, but those people have already served their quarantine period.
The government was yet to release the names of any hotels where visitors are quarantined.
Dr Leung Chi-chiu, an expert on communicable diseases, said the list of buildings should be published to increase transparency and reassure the public.
"More information is better than less when it comes to reducing unfounded fears," he said. "The public may be worried because, as we all know, the virus is still highly contagious in its incubation stage."
Leung said members of public did not need to worry, and could protect themselves by wearing masks when they leave home, and washing their hands more often.
"Building management should sanitise and disinfect public areas if there are residents quarantined there," he added.
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