Lifts infection suspected in Guangzhou cases

Top News | Charlotte Luo 13 Feb 2020

All residents of a Guangzhou building have been evacuated as authorities suspect coronavirus infection via the lifts or sewage system.

Six residents, living in three flats in No 18 building, were confirmed to have the virus, officially named Covid-19, between January 29 and February 11.

The building is located at a high-end estate, Poly Tianyue, in Pazhou of Haizhu district.

All the patients are in quarantine and their close contacts are under medical observation, a notice from the district government said.

"Ever since the first case appeared, the entire building was being put under quarantine, with 212 residents and property management workers tested once," the notice said.

All residents were transferred to Jiangyue Hotel and Vienna Hotel for a 14-day concentrated medical observation.

Guangzhou Daily quoted experts as saying the building might have unknown transmission sources and they did not rule out the possibility of the virus spreading through the elevators or sewage system. One of the residents, a 33-year-old man surnamed Yu, was confirmed to have the virus on January 31. On February 4, the police bureau in Haizhu established a case against Yu for allegedly hindering prevention of infectious diseases.

The bureau said preliminary research suggested Yu's wife had had a cough and fever on January 23, but still drove with her parents from Hubei to her home in No 18 building.

Yu and his wife visited a doctor between January 27 and 31 and both were confirmed to have the virus.

However, they lied about their previous whereabouts and refused to say who they had been in contact with since they returned to Guangzhou.

In another district in the city, nine cases were reported at Clifford Estates, a residential estate with a large number of Hong Kong residents. All nine had visited Hubei recently.

The National Health Commission said 2,015 new cases had been reported on Tuesday. The total number of cases in the mainland reached 44,653. The death toll rose to 1,113, with two people dying elsewhere - one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

In Hong Kong, several pro-democracy groups protested outside the liaison office to mark the seventh day after the death of doctor Li Wenliang. They pasted a petition outside the gate of the building.

Li was among the first people who drew attention to the virus, but was accused of spreading rumors on the internet.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, a doctor, said Li's death made Chinese people realize the importance of free speech.

Kwok said the Communist Party is again hiding things about the disease as it did during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

"We must thank Li Wenliang's brave words on that day, and support the late-comers in the mainland who have joined [the camp] to defend freedom of speech," he said.

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