Hong Kong, March 27 (Reuters): Scientists in Hong Kong said today they had identified the virus behind a mystery pneumonia that has killed more than 50 people worldwide as the government ordered schools in the city to close.
Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa also said the government had invoked a quarantine law and anyone breaking it would be fined or jailed for up to six months.
Tung said those exposed to the virus must not go to work or school but must go to a designated clinic every day to be examined and if found to be ill, they will be isolated.
Eleven people have died in Hong Kong from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and 370 are infected.
“They must not go to work or to school for 10 days or they will be punished,” Tung said as anxiety grew in the city of seven million and tourists cancelled holidays.
A day after Singapore took similar action, Tung said schools would shut for a week from from March 29 in a bid to contain a fast-spreading pneumonia.
British rockers the Rolling Stones, along with a huge retinue of support staff, postponed two concerts scheduled for this weekend in Hong Kong.
A group of microbiologists from the University of Hong Kong said a new strain from the family of coronaviruses, which are the second leading cause of colds in humans, was to blame.
The disease is believed to have started in southern CHina last November and has since spread to Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, Germany, Japan, United States, France and Britain, sparking widespread travel cancellations.