School-trip teachers among 44 new cases

Top News | Jane Cheung 23 Mar 2020

Two teachers at international school Mount Kelly were among 44 new cases yesterday, taking the total in Hong Kong to 318.

The Centre for Health Protection said 19 among the new cases had travel history, with most coming back from Europe and the United States. They included seven Hongkongers studying abroad.

Fifteen did not have travel history, and the remaining 10 were close contacts of previously diagnosed cases.

The center said so far, four Mount Kelly teachers - a 31-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman diagnosed previously and the two new cases - had contracted Covid-19.

The 31-year-old man and 25-year-old woman had led a group of seven secondary students from the Tsim Sha Tsui school on an exchange tour to Switzerland between February 28 and March 8. Authorities have been tracing the students but believe they are fine as the 14-day incubation period has passed with none reporting sick.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the center's communicable disease branch, said: "Previous confirmed cases from Switzerland have been skiing. I believe transmission could have occurred when a group of people were squeezed in the same area to change clothes before and after skiing."

Sources said the four teachers had played tennis together in Hong Kong without wearing masks.

Chuang also updated confirmed cases from two clusters - seven from a tour group to Yellowknife city in Canada's Northwest Territories and 10 people, including the groom and a 20-month-old baby girl, from a wedding banquet for 80 people in Discovery Bay's Auberge Hotel.

A preliminary confirmed case yesterday was the father of a male nurse at Yan Chai Hospital in Tsuen Wan. The Hospital Authority said the nurse did not show symptoms and he last worked for the internal medicine ward on Saturday.

Chuang said most of the imported cases were returnees from the UK, adding that the enhanced surveillance of testing symptomatic returnees at the Hong Kong International Airport will facilitate early detection and isolation of some cases.

"Even if returnees are tested negative, they should not lower their guard but should stick to the 14-day home quarantine as they could have contracted the virus but still be in the incubation period," she said.

Head of faculty of medicine from the University of Hong Kong Gabriel Leung suggested the scope of tests at the airport be broadened from high risk groups like the elderly to everyone who return from worst-hit areas including Europe, the UK and North America.

The Department of Health can test 5,000 specimens a week and there is still capacity to expand the criteria on returnees to be tested.

Former Centre for Health Protection controller Thomas Tsang Ho-fai suggested a total ban on foreigners entering Hong Kong. Speaking in a television interview, Tsang said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has spread to many countries across the world and the SAR government should step up with containment. It's worth thinking whether we can completely bar foreigners from entering Hong Kong."

Another public health expert from the HKU, Lam Tai-hing, said returnees under 14-day home quarantine should keep their masks on at home, especially those living with elderly relatives.

Speaking on a radio program, Lam said: "Wearing a mask all day can prevent spreading the virus by droplets."

jane.cheung@singtaonewscorp.com

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