Medical workers hold a strike near Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, on February 3.
Medical workers hold a strike near Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, on February 3. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

A “large number” of hospital staff in Hong Kong are absent today due to a labor union strike, said the city’s Hospital Authority.

Why they’re striking: The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, a medical workers’ union with over 13,000 members, began striking on Monday to demand the government completely close all borders with China.

As the group and the authorities failed to reach a compromise, the group kicked off the second stage of strike on Tuesday to further limit services.

The move comes as Hong Kong announced the death of a 39-year-old man from the Wuhan coronavirus on Tuesday. The man had previously visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. To date, Hong Kong has recorded a total of 15 confirmed coronavirus cases.

What this means: Emergency services in public hospitals have been “affected to a certain extent” by the strike, said the Hospital Authority.

Public hospitals now only have “limited number of staff on duty” to provide emergency services, while specialist outpatient clinics can only provide “limited services.” The authorities advised patients to reschedule appointments.

Government response: Chief Executive Carrie Lam criticized the strike, saying critical patients like cancer patients still needed their services. Now, medical staff who are still working will have heavier workloads because of the strike, she said.

The government has already imposed several travel restrictions and closed many borders with the mainland; only three crossing points, including the city’s international airport, remain open.

Closing all borders would also mean shutting out Hong Kong residents traveling in the mainland, who would be stranded and unable to return home, Lam said.