Radio station padlocked on record day for infections

Top News | Mandy Zheng and Jane Cheung 23 Jul 2020

Metro Broadcast closed its headquarters yesterday after executive program director Karen Ching Hoi-yan tested positive for Covid-19 as Hong Kong saw a record 113 new infections, including 105 local cases.

News of Ching's infection emerged after an internal notice from the radio station asked all staffers to leave its head office in Hung Hom's Whampoa Garden by 6pm, with the office to close for disinfection until Saturday.

The station has put clerks, including those in the sales and accounting departments, on work-from-home arrangements, while production teams are forced to put their work on hold.

During the closure, the station's three channels - Metro Finance, Metro Plus and Metro Info - will play prerecorded programs.

An employee of another radio station surnamed Chan said it is difficult to produce a show when the whole team is working from home without a technician in the office to manage radio signals.

"The equipment for outdoor broadcasting is quite large and you need several people to move it," she added.

A source familiar with the situation at Metro Broadcast said: "The company knows that colleagues will worry a lot and they might not have a good mood to produce shows now."

Ching's infection came after Canto-pop singer Zaina Sze Hong-kiu, who had just joined the station's weekly music program, was confirmed to have the infection on Saturday.

While Metro Broadcast said it has disinfected the entire office after Sze's infection, some suspected that Ching still could have caught the virus from the singer.

On July 9, Ching posted a photo of her standing next to Sze - both unmasked - on social media.

Sze's promotion staff and manager were also infected, along with actor Robert Mak Tak-law, the manager's boyfriend.

The four new cases have triggered panic in the entertainment industry as Television Broadcasts Limited arranged for around 100 staff to be tested for the virus.

Many radio stations have tightened their disease-control measures as public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong and private Commercial Radio closed their doors to reporters from other media.

Meanwhile, among yesterday's 113 cases, eight were imported, 42 linked to previous local cases and 83 from unknown local sources, taking the city's tally to 2,132 including 14 deaths.

The Centre of Health Protection's head of communicable disease branch Chuang Shuk-kwan said yesterday's record high came in addition to 60 to 70 preliminary cases.

One of the preliminary positives is a 43-year-old female sergeant at the police wealth investigation division.

She fell sick on Sunday and attended a public clinic on Monday when she last went to work at the police headquarters in Wan Chai.

Hospital Authority's chief manager for clinical effectiveness and technology management Linda Yu Wai-ling said a 34-week pregnant patient diagnosed with Covid-19 on Tuesday delivered her baby by cesarean section yesterday afternoon after consulting with doctors.

Yu said due to the premature delivery, the baby suffered breathing difficulty upon birth and required breathing aid.

"We have separated the baby from his mother. We will also test the newborn for Covid-19," Yu said, adding overseas experience showed a pregnant mother could pass the virus to her unborn baby but the risk was low.

Chuang said Tao Heung Restaurant in Mong Kok saw six more patients - three men and three women aged between 25 and 68 - three of whom participated in the handover anniversary celebration on July 11 while the other three dined in the restaurant two days later, bringing cases in the cluster to 24.

A 39-year-old salesman at Broadway electronics store in Diamond Hill's Plaza Hollywood was confirmed and a customer who on July 10 bought a mobile phone from the store was also infected.

Among cases from unknown sources, at least three were teachers at Learning Habitat Kindergarten in To Kwa Wan, Po Leung Kuk Gold and Silver Exchange Society Pershing Tsang primary school in Causeway Bay and St Clare's Girls' School in Mount Davis.

She said extended laboratory surveillance programs targeting Tsz Wan Shan residents, elderly home staff and taxi drivers have also picked up some cases, including five workers and a customer at restaurants and shops in Tsz Wan Shan Centre, a cleaner and a chef at The Salvation Army Lung Hang Residence for Senior Citizens in Tai Wai and a taxi driver.

Chuang said some new patients were detected after they felt sick and attended private clinics but they continued to go out for meals and met friends after submitting their saliva samples for testing.

She called on people waiting for test results to stay at home. "If not, we will have to trace many close contacts when you become a confirmed case," she said.

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