Authorities in Hong Kong have indefinitely closed its public museums in an effort to contain the coronavirus, which broke out in Wuhan, a mainland city west of Shanghai, in December, reports the Art Newspaper. As the death toll from the disease exceeds one hundred and the number of infections skyrockets, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam also announced restrictions on travel.
According to the New York Times, beginning Thursday, Hong Kong’s high-speed train and ferry service will be limited between the mainland and the city, and individual travelers from the mainland will not be granted travel permits to visit the territory. Flights have also been cut by half. Since public health resources in Hong Kong were strained during its SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003—the Journal of the Royal Science of Medicine reports that a total of 286 people died of the disease—some are calling for a complete closure of the Hong Kong-China border.
The outbreak raises further concern for this year’s already embattled edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, slated to run from March 19 to March 21. “Art Basel is taking the situation very seriously and we are monitoring the developments closely, including assessing the situation with risk specialists and with selection committee members,” a spokesperson of the fair told the Art Newspaper. “At this stage, it is too early for us to discuss how the recent outbreak of the new virus will impact the show.” There are currently eight confirmed cases of the virus in Hong Kong.
China shuttered its public museums last week. The Beijing Palace Museum—also known as the Forbidden City—and the National Museum of China announced on January 23 that they would be closed until further notice beginning on January 25. The National Art Museum of China and the Guangdong Art Museum are among several regional art museums that closed on January 24. The country’s private art museums have posted similar notices.