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The Hong Kong town of Sheung Shui is a huge draw for mainland Chinese shoppers

Coronavirus outbreak: Cathay Pacific, Air China temporarily suspend flights to China

Hong Kong saw a sharp drop in the number of people entering the city after it introduced mandatory quarantine for those arriving from mainland China, its latest effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

All major airlines in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have suspended or drastically reduced flights to Chinese airports.

Hong Kong's medical workers began a third day of strike action yesterday, piling pressure on the city's government to seal the border with mainland China as the number of locally transmitted cases of coronavirus increased.

On Tuesday, the carrier said it planned to cut about 30% of capacity over the next two months, including about 90% of flights to mainland China. Violators could face six months in prison and a HK$25,000 (S$4,475) fine.

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Earlier this week, Cathay announced it had cut services to mainland China and also on other worldwide routes.

Officials - backed by volunteers from the civil service and some students - will conduct spot checks or make daily phone calls to ensure people were staying at home.

Hong Kong Airlines said in a statement that strict entry and quarantine measures imposed by countries around the world have further impacted travel demand in the city and the firm had to take "vigorous measures" to mitigate the challenges.

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"The problem of supply shortage doesn't exist", said Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung. "The public need not worry", it said.

Tang warned Cathay of "one of the most hard Chinese New Year holidays we've ever had".

However, it has stressed that it will continue to fly to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, the second most affected country after China. Most airlines have only adjusted their schedules for mainland China so far.

Amid protesters' demand to shut down of the border with mainland China, the Hong Kong administration has refused to seal the border completely.

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Several global airlines, including Air India and IndiGo, have cancelled flights to China over fears of the virus spreading across the world, a move which Beijing described against the WHO guidelines.

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