Virus fatigue setting in amid rise in use of Octopus Cards

Top News | Jane Cheung 19 Aug 2020

Commuting and consumption are on the rise as Hongkongers grow tired of keeping up with anti-epidemic measures, health authorities say.

The Centre for Health Protection said data from Octopus Card usage showed virus fatigue is setting in as it called on Hongkongers "to bear with us."

There were 36 new cases yesterday - the 16th straight day when infections were in double digits.

The center's head of communicable disease branch, Chuang Shuk-kwan, said: "Social distancing is the way out to protect high-risk groups and lower the death rate without vaccines. We all need to adapt to the new normal."

The new cases included an imported infection, 29 linked to previous sources and six from unknown local origins - taking the city's total to 4,561. Twenty preliminary positive cases await confirmation.

Two patients - a man, 95, and a woman, 64 - passed away yesterday, pushing the death toll to 71. The man was a resident of Sham Shui Po's King Fuk Home for the Elderly. Among the 29 linked to earlier local infections, 27 happened within household clusters, including a driver of coaches for residential estates and offices.

On the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal cluster, Chuang said one more Wang Kee Port Operation Services employee turned out to be a preliminary positive case. So far, more than 50 of 120 workers from the company have been infected.

Another preliminary positive case is a security guard at Terminal Two's exit gate, who shares a rest area with Terminal Five workers. About 16 of his close contacts will be sent to quarantine.

As of Monday night, 2,600 terminal workers had been tested and all came back negative, with samples from the remaining 5,400 in progress.

The Hospital Authority's chief manager for quality and standards, Lau Ka-hin, said a man, 64, in Yan Chai Hospital at Tsuen Wan tested preliminary positive.

He said the man often pulled down his mask in the surgical ward. Six patients in the same cubicle were quarantined and seven medics put under surveillance.

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said the government would be asking for trouble if it relaxed regulations now, after officials made a last-minute U-turn against resuming dine-in services at restaurants after 6pm. The measure was extended until Tuesday.

Yuen said restaurants should improve ventilation or filter the air, and that customers should lower their voice when chatting and eating.

"The louder you speak, the more viruses can be transmitted," he said.

Hongkong Post will arrange for its 3,800 front-line workers to take tests tomorrow and on Friday as they are considered a high-risk group that frequently comes into contact with people.

State media said yesterday a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by Sinopharm of China National Pharmaceutical Group could cost no more than 1,000 yuan (HK$1,119) for two shots, quoting its chairman Liu Jingzhen.

Sinopharm has said its experimental vaccine could be ready for public use by the end of the year.

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