Virus infection rate predicted to increase

Monday, August 17, 2020

Public health medicine specialist Gabriel Leung has warned that a recent increase in the number of people going out means the infectivity rate of the coronavirus is poised to also rise within the next few days, RTHK reports.

Professor Leung, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said the effective reproduction number for the virus, known as the Rt, stands to rise from just over 0.6 as of August 9, to around 1 by Thursday this week.

Leung said this means that every infected person can be expected to pass on the pathogen to one other person, and described this projected increase in infectivity as “worrying”.

If the Rt is below one, that means the outbreak would shrink and the number of cases would decline. Above one means there are sustained chains of infections.

Leung said the projection is based on new data suggesting that people have been travelling around Hong Kong more recently.

As such, Leung said now is definitely not the right time to even consider relaxing social distancing measures – despite reports that the government is mulling over a proposal to allow local eateries to resume dine-in services in the evenings as early as Tuesday next week.

“We should hold fast for one to two more weeks, and by then, hopefully, we will be able to observe that the Rt will continue to dip. Secondly, we would see this reflected in the daily reported number of cases”, he said.

The expert – who is one of the government's main infection control advisor – also called for quick and extensive testing for around 4,000 to 8,000 foreign domestic helpers who're currently in between jobs and may be living in cramped boarding houses.

Some infections have recently been traced to these flats, and the government has had trouble tracking down all the close contacts.

Leung also said elderly people living in care homes should be tested regularly.