Hong Kong: Thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong on Tuesday continued a strike that started a day ago, to demand the city’s government to completely close the border with mainland China in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
A day after almost 3,000 doctors and nurses walked out in protest at the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, thousands more joined them as the stand-off escalated on Tuesday morning, reports the South China Morning Post.
The demonstrators held banners saying, “Save Hong Kong now. I am staff on strike”, and submitted a petition letter to the city’s Hospital Authority.
Health officials said emergency services, neonatal intensive care units, cancer and radiology services, and isolation wards had been severely affected, and asked patients with minor complaints to seek help from private doctors and clinics.
Deacons Yeung Tai-kong, a director at the Authority, said the situation in public hospitals “has been very serious and worrying”.
“On Monday, about 4,000 people sought help from our accident and emergency departments, and 937 of them have to be transferred to our medical wards.
“So I appeal to all nurses from our medical wards to come back, because the work there will be very busy, especially at night,” he added.
On Monday, the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, a union formed during the anti-government protests, began its strike action after Chief Executive Carrie Lam did not give in to their demands to fully close the border with mainland China.
Instead, Lam announced that almost all 15 crossing points would be closed, leaving open the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, Shenzhen Bay Port, and the international airport, said the South China Morning Post.
The 18,000-strong union, together with other leading medical experts, has argued that all borders should be closed to any non-Hong Kong residents entering from mainland China to stop the killer disease, which originated in Wuhan, from spreading.
Also on Tuesday, Hong Kong reported its first coronavirus death, making it the third country after China and the Philippines to report fatalities.
China’s death toll now stands at 425, with 20,438 confirmed cases.
The number of deaths in China now exceeds the 349 killed on the mainland in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak of 2002-03.