HONG KONG: The United States advised citizens on Wednesday (Mar 2) against travelling to Hong Kong, citing strict coronavirus curbs and the risk of children being separated from parents as the Chinese city battles a wave of infections.
“The Department of State has updated the Travel Advisory for Hong Kong to Level 4 – Do Not Travel due to COVID-19 and COVID-19 related restrictions, including the risk of parents and children being separated,” the US consulate said in a statement on Twitter.
“In some cases, children in Hong Kong who test positive have been separated from their parents and kept in isolation until they meet local hospital discharge requirements,” the State Department added in a statement.
The higher travel warning by the United States is the first time such separations have been specifically cited in an advisory.
Level 4 is the State Department’s highest level for a travel advisory.
The Asian financial hub is in the grip of its worst coronavirus outbreak, registering tens of thousands of new cases each day, overwhelming hospitals and shattering the city’s zero-COVID strategy.
More than 200,000 infections have been recorded in the last two months, compared with just 12,000 for the rest of the pandemic – while its death rate is currently four times Singapore’s.
For two years, Hong Kong kept infections largely at bay using a strict zero-COVID strategy but an outbreak of the highly infectious Omicron variant has been tearing through the city since January.
The government was caught flat-footed with few plans in place to deal with a mass outbreak despite the two-year breathing room afforded by the zero-COVID success.
In recent weeks, Hong Kong has seen overflowing hospitals and morgues, shortages of medics and ambulances, panic buying and a frantic expansion, with mainland China’s help, of spartan quarantine camps and temporary hospitals to house the infected.
The outbreak has led to the imposition of the toughest restrictions yet with more than a dozen types of businesses ordered to close and a ban on more than two people gathering in public.