Two asylum seekers from China trying to flee from the deadly coronavirus were taken into custody at the airport by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after trying to enter Hawaii.
“As we understand they’re being held at the federal detention center. With that there is no risk to our residents or visitors,” said Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, adding that there are no people in mandatory quarantine for the disease that is sweeping across the globe.
The U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak in China, placing a temporary ban on foreign nationals who recently traveled to the country — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The federal government also ordered an unprecedented 14-day quarantine of those who visited Hubei province within two weeks.
The Health Department said it is unclear exactly where in China the individuals are from or whether or not they may have been exposed to the virus that has killed more than 400 in mainland China and affected more than 20,000 as of Monday.
“We’re not actually doing anything from what I understand (because) they’re at the federal detention center,” Okubo said. “They must have come in before the new rule came into effect. Our staff is just being informed of these things. I would think if there was a concern that they would tell us.”
“Surprise development at the Honolulu Int’l Airport where we just learned there is a group of mainland Chinese Nationals seeking asylum from the caronavirus (sic),” Rep. Gene Ward tweeted Tuesday morning.
Surprise development at the Honolulu Int’l Airport where we just learned there is a group of mainland Chinese Nationals seeking asylum from the caronavirus! Stay tuned to this one!
— Rep. Gene Ward (@repward) February 4, 2020
Honolulu is now one of 11 airports where all flights to the U.S. from China will be funneled, though direct flights from China to Hawaii have been suspended.
The state has identified a quarantine site at a military base at Pearl Harbor for any travelers who have been to Hubei province within 14 days or are considered high-risk, whether or not they show symptoms of the deadly coronavirus.