Worship hall cases rise - but 'building is safe'

Top News | Jane Cheung 25 Feb 2020

Two more women who went to a Buddhist worship hall have been confirmed to have the Covid-19 virus - taking the number of cases connected with the gathering to six and the city's total to 79 as of yesterday.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch at the Centre for Health Protection, said it was likely someone from the Fook Wai Ching She Buddhist temple at Maylun Apartments in North Point had been ill and passed it to the others.

"If the temple is the source and people gather in there, it's not rare for a cluster of cases to emerge," she said.

"But [Maylun Apartments] is safe as we have yet to find a case from the building that has not been to the temple."

Chuang said the center's hotline received 130 calls from worshipers from Fook Wai Ching She, with seven reported to be ill and sent to hospital, including a woman who was later confirmed with the virus.

Another 16 people were placed under quarantine and 107 were under medical surveillance.

Chuang said one of the new cases related to the temple was a 57-year-old housewife who lives in Redhill Peninsula in Tai Tam.

She had a sore throat on February 8 and developed a fever two days later, prompting her to visit the private Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital on several occasions before the institution alerted the Department of Health and sent her to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai.

"The woman has been to Osaka, Japan between January 26 and 31," Chuang said.

"She visited the temple on January 25 and every day between February 1 and 6."

A related case was a 68-year-old woman living in Majestic Apartments in North Point, who began coughing on Wednesday, Chuang said.

She added the woman had visited the temple every day from February 1 to 6 and 8, but mostly stayed at home or visited Chun Yeung Street's wet market.

"On Saturday she learned about the confirmed cases related to the temple and attended a private doctor the next day," she said, adding the woman was then referred to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam.

Staff in protective gear sanitized Maylun Apartments.

Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung from the University of Hong Kong said he did not think an evacuation was required unless building residents saw a sudden surge in cases.

This came as two more passengers returning from the Diamond Princess cruise on a charter flight from Japan also tested positive for the virus, as two other passengers tested as preliminary positive.

Chuang said two women, who returned on the second charter flight from Tokyo, were sent straight to Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan for a 14-day quarantine.

Asked how the pair became confirmed cases after being cleared by Japanese authorities, Chuang said: "It's not about the sensitivity of the tests. Maybe they have yet to develop symptoms and had a low viral load when they were tested."

The fifth confirmed case was a 35-year-old businessman, living in Grand Yoho in Yuen Long, who drove to Shenzhen in early February and returned on February 7.

He attended Pok Oi Hospital in Yuen Long on Friday, with tests showing ambiguous results before he was transferred to Tuen Mun Hospital for a retest. He became a confirmed case yesterday.

The Hospital Authority's chief manager for patient safety and risk management, Sara Ho Yuen-ha, said among the 79 patients in Hong Kong, two had passed away and 19 had been discharged. Among the 19 discharged, five had been allowed to return to their homes.

Among 58 patients still being treated in 10 hospitals, seven are in serious condition. The remaining 51 are stable.

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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