Hong Kong is converting a former COVID-19 isolation center into monkeypox quarantine facility, even though it has found just one case of the new virus.
The Sai Kung Outdoor Recreation Center, which was a holiday camp before being repurposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, can provide about 100 beds, media including the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday, citing a statement from health officials.
The recreation center will be closed from Tuesday until further notice for anti-epidemic purposes, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said in a separate statement Monday, without detailing the reasons for the closure.
Hong Kong has been relaxing its COVID-19 travel restrictions, shortening quarantine requirements for international arrivals and allowing patients to isolate at home as the city seeks to defend its status as a global financial hub.
As a result, makeshift hospitals and facilities previously used to house positive cases during the peak of the omicron-driven outbreak have been left underused or vacant.
Still, the city remains one of the few places maintaining travel curbs to align with China’s COVID-19 Zero policy, leaving Hong Kong increasingly cut off from the rest of the world that’s largely reopened.
Chief Executive John Lee has acknowledged the government is having internal conversations about further reducing hotel quarantine before several major events planned to boost the city’s image, including a banking summit in November.
Yet the city’s elevated infection rate - which topped 10,000 last week and remained at almost 8,000 Monday - and the arrival of the monkeypox virus could deter officials from easing restrictions further.
Hong Kong found its first monkeypox case last week, in a 30-year-old man who reported symptoms while in hotel quarantine after flying into the city. The patient had recently visited countries including Canada, the US and the Philippines. No close contacts in Hong Kong have been identified.
Health officials believed risks were extremely low for anyone in the city to contract monkeypox because prolonged exposure is needed to transmit the virus.