Quarantine laws have been invoked in Hong Kong to prevent the spread of a mystery virus originating in China which authorities had feared was SARS reborn.
The pneumonia-like illness which causes fever, breathing problems and lesions on the lungs has been traced back to the city of Wuhan in central China where there are 59 cases.
Hong Kong has reported 16 suspected cases but none serious.
Authorities have ruled out SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome -after initially worrying that the pandemic which spread from China in 2002 had made a resurgence.
Hong Kong is already checking the temperatures of travellers returning from China at airports, railway stations and ports in a bid to control the spread of the mystery illness.
The new laws means people arriving with symptoms such as fever, cough or cold could now be quarantined as a protective measure.
Carrie Lam’s preventive measures mean schools and workplaces must comply with more intensive cleaning operations and share information with government departments.
“Currently no serious pneumonia case related to Wuhan has been detected in Hong Kong, but the cluster of viral pneumonia cases in Wuhan can be regarded as a ‘Novel Infectious Disease of Public Health Significance,’” food and health secretary Sophia Chan said in a statement.
The SARS outbreak killed more than 800 people worldwide after it broke out in southern China in 2002.
Health authorities have ruled out influenza, bird flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or SARS.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has begun monitoring the outbreak.
Of the 59 cases in Wuhan, seven are considered critical but no-one has died. The sick are being treated in quarantine in China.