Hong Kong medical workers threaten to strike Monday.
As many as 9,000 medical workers in Hong Kong have pledged to strike this week, a threat that alarms the territory’s officials as they are struggling to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The workers are demanding that Hong Kong close all border checkpoints to visitors from mainland China, saying they represent a threat to health care workers in the city. They are planning to paralyze nonemergency and then emergency services at hospitals, a union formed during the city’s anti-government protest movement said.
“We believe such actions are our last resort,” the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance wrote in a statement Saturday night.
Under the plan, nonessential hospital staff members who belong to the union would not go to work on Monday. If the government failed to close the border and heed their other demands by 9 p.m., union members handling emergency services would also strike, the union said.
Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, appealed to medical workers to reconsider, comparing them to guardians of the public.
“At this critical moment, I believe the general public would count on medical personnel to fight against the epidemic together, in the spirit of professionalism,” he wrote in a blog post Sunday.
Hong Kong confirmed its 14th coronavirus case late Saturday. The patient, an 80-year-old man, had traveled for a few hours to mainland China in early January, and later spent several days in Japan.
In arguing against the job action, government officials say that the number of visitors from the mainland and other countries has decreased significantly after they closed several border points and rail stations and cut flight arrivals by half.
But several border points remain open, and many medical workers fear being overwhelmed by a flood of visitors seeking treatment in Hong Kong’s well-regarded health care system. They have also voiced frustrations about patients from mainland China hiding their travel and medical history, potentially endangering other patients.
Austin Ramzy, Jason Gutierrez and Tiffany May contributed reporting.