Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the city will quarantine all travelers from foreign countries for 14 days from Thursday, as it confronts vastly more imported coronavirus cases than locally transmitted ones.

Lam, at a press conference, also advised Hong Kong residents to refrain from traveling to all countries and territories except mainland China, Macau and Taiwan, in light of the spread of the virus.

Under the new measure, all visitors from outside Hong Kong, except for mainland China, Macau and Taiwan, will be subject to compulsory quarantine at home or hotels, or medical observation.

(Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the Central Government Complex on Feb. 3, 2020 in Hong Kong.)[Getty/Kyodo]

In explaining the new measure, the chief executive said infections have spread explosively around the world, and that of the 57 confirmed infection cases in Hong Kong over the past two weeks, 50 were in people who had traveled during the incubation period or people who had close contact with the infected.

Hong Kong has so far reported 162 infection cases.

The government has so far advised its residents to refrain from traveling to Hokkaido when visiting Japan. But the area subject to the advisory has now been expanded to the entire country.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of nearby Macau on Tuesday ordered an entry ban on foreigners, not including residents of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, effective Wednesday.

Just a day earlier, the government had said all people who have been to a foreign country within the past 14 days prior to entering Macau must be quarantined, starting Tuesday.

The tougher measure came after a 47-year-old Spanish man who arrived in Macau on Monday night from Madrid via Moscow and Beijing was confirmed infected, taking the territory's total to 12.

At the press conference, Lam rejected the idea of banning entry to all foreigners as Macau and some foreign countries have done.

"I think it is a bit too drastic to go into that sort of total banning because we have to understand that there are always some very genuine and compassionate cases on an exceptional basis that despite a 14-day quarantine they need to come to Hong Kong," she said.

"While we are still in the epidemic situation, we have to allow the city to continue, the business to resume. Otherwise we may have more problems on the economic front."

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