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US authorizes Hong Kong staff to leave over coronavirus

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Agence France-Presse

The United States said Tuesday it had authorized consulate staff to leave Hong Kong as concerns spread over the coronavirus that originated in mainland China.

Non-essential staff and their family members will be allowed, but not required, to leave the metropolis “out of an abundance of caution related to uncertainties” on the coronavirus, a State Department spokesperson said.

The US consulate in Hong Kong will remain open, the State Department said. The consulate last year became a focal point for some of the protesters who took to the streets in major demonstrations aimed at preserving Hong Kong’s freedoms from Beijing.

The staff move marks the expansion of the State Department’s voluntary departures beyond mainland China.

The State Department last month issued similar notices for staff in Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

It has mandated the departure of consular employees in Wuhan, where the virus broke out late last year, apparently at a market selling exotic animals for consumption.

Hong Kong has reported one death from the coronavirus which has killed more than 1,000 people in the mainland, mostly in and around Wuhan.

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