Hong Kong ramps up coronavirus fight by quarantining visitors from mainland China

Visitors from mainland China to Hong Kong will be quarantined for 14 days as the semi-autonomous region aims to prevent the coronavirus from spreading within its borders.

The policy goes into effect Saturday, the BBC reported, as all but two of Hong Kong's land and sea borders with China have already been closed. The quarantine comes as thousands of hospital workers have gone on strike to demand the closure of all of Hong Kong's borders with the mainland.

It was unclear where the quarantine would take place -- at a hospital or at home -- or how it would be imposed.

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The novel coronavirus has killed nearly 500 people and sickened more than 24,600 worldwide, according to figures compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The vast majority of deaths and infections have occurred on the mainland, particularly in the Hubei province where the illness first began in the capital, Wuhan. The city and 17 others have been sealed off and quarantined, impacting 50 million people as Chinese officials continue efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

Outside China, one death was reported in Hong Kong -- a 39-year-old man who had visited Wuhan. Another patient died in the Philippines.

Hong Kong residents remain concerned over China's handling of the virus, as anti-government sentiment has spread following months of protests over Beijing's growing influence in the region's affairs. Cathay Pacific, a Hong Kong-based airline, is asking 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave in the coming months because of the outbreak, according to the BBC.

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Hong Kong officials announced that roughly 1,800 passengers on a World Dream cruise ship that came from Wuhan are being tested after some people reported contracting a fever and other symptoms. About 90 percent of the ship's passengers are from the city, according to its health department.

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Officials are trying to prevent the devastation brought on by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a virus from the same family as the current outbreak of coronavirus that occurred in 2002 and 2003.