Virus local outbreak risk at its highest
Friday, March 20, 2020
University of Hong Kong researchers warned today that the city is at its highest risk of a local outbreak since the coronavirus epidemic began, saying many people seem to be dropping their guard, RTHK reports.
The researchers from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, said the rate of infection – an average of how many people get infected from a person who tests positive for the virus – has risen past one in recent days.
The center’s head, Professor Gabriel Leung, warned of “serious consequences” if there were more cluster infections.
“This is the worst time to relax because we’re at the highest risk since this began. It is absolutely critical especially as we have this influx of Hong Kong returnees starting from a few days ago and continuing for the next few days. We must be extra vigilant,” he said.
Leung said the situation before March 15 was “reassuring,” when the infection rate was was below one.
He said they had noticed a relaxation in people’s behaviour against the virus. He compared two photos which showed there were significantly more people at Lan Kwai Fong last Friday night than early March.
A survey they conducted also showed fewer people said they were “avoiding crowded places” and “staying at home as much as possible” in recent weeks.
Leung said businesses might consider shortening hours and restricting access to facilitate social distancing, while measures should be taken to protect elderly people and foreign domestic helpers.
Hong Kong has so far reported 208 virus infections. Ninety-seven of them have been discharged, while four patients have died.
Health authorities said more than 90 percent of cases in the past two weeks involve people who had travelled outside Hong Kong and their close contacts.
But they also raised alarm the popular entertainment area in Lan Kwai Fong has been to linked to five recent cases.
A top health official on Thursday appealed to the public to stop gathering to eat at restaurants or drink at bars in groups if they want to protect themselves.