Infected doc fighting for survival

Top News | Jane Cheung 8 Dec 2020

A Queen Elizabeth doctor is fighting for his life in intensive care after being infected with Covid-19.

At the same time, authorities warn the virus in the latest wave is just as harmful to patients in the 50 to 60 age group as those who are older.

These were among grim tidings yesterday as Hong Kong recorded 78 cases, with 42 linked to previous local infections, 29 from unknown sources and seven imported. That made the total number of cases 6,976, with 112 deaths.

And more than 70 people classed as preliminary patients are awaiting confirmations.

One of the patients with an unknown source is an usher who worked for five days during singer Hins Cheung King-hin's eight-day concert series at the Hong Kong Coliseum late last month. Four fans who went on separate days have been infected.

Kenny Chan King-chung, a member of the Hospital Authority's intensive care coordination committee, said unlike the previous three waves patients now include including younger people.

And their conditions deteriorate rapidly, with many requiring breathing aid in hospitals.

Among 36 critical patients, six are under 60 and two under 50 while among 39 serious cases nine are under 60 and five under 50.

"We expect the mortality rate could go up to 30 or 40 percent this time," Chan said. "We want to alert the public that this wave is not just a danger for elderly people. Everyone should stay vigilant."

One of the critical patients is a 45-year-old Queen Elizabeth pathologist, who was in stable condition until Sunday. Then he took a turn for the worse and needed aid with breathing.

The doctor worked on November 26 and developed symptoms the next day. He stayed at home while awaiting test results and was confirmed to have Covid-19 last Tuesday. The authority has said he worked at a laboratory and had not been in contact with any confirmed patients or their samples.

Classified as an unknown-source patient, the doctor is believed to have contracted the virus outside the hospital.

There was another confirmed patient near his home at Crestmont Villa in Discovery Bay.

And another pathologist, 33, who worked in the same laboratory, has also been infected.

Chan said recent patients in critical conditions had a prolonged and high viral load, indicating the virus is very infectious even after they were admitted to an ICU. They also developed antibodies much more slowly than previous patients.

"Currently, we have four critical patients - all infected in the fourth wave - connected to artificial heart and lung machines," he said.

Overseas statistics show 50 percent of patients who needed to be attached to these machines had died.

Regarding the concert, Chuang Shuk-kwan, the Centre for Health Protection's head of the communicable disease unit, said the usher confirmed with Covid worked at different coliseum entrances on November 22, 24, 26, 27 and 29 before he fell sick on Thursday.

Chuang could not rule out the possibility the concert was the source of the usher's infection because four spectators who went to the show on four separate days were also diagnosed with the infection. But two were believed to have acquired the virus from family members.

"Almost 50,000 spectators went to the eight-day concert series," Chuang said. "There are bound to be some silent carriers among them."

She called for other spectators to monitor their conditions and get tested when symptoms show themselves.

Meanwhile, department store chain Yata's Sha Tin branch announced 10 more staff tested as preliminary positive, and one was confirmed with the infection on Sunday.

A Yata spokesman said the staff worked in the supermarket, cosmetic and home-ware sections. The Sha Tin branch has been closed until further notice amid disinfection efforts. All staff are being tested.

Chuang said authorities are still investigating whether the infected workers shared changing rooms.

And four CHP staff tested as preliminary positive, with three from the center's headquarters in Kowloon City. The trio worked in the home quarantine unit, responsible for answering phone questions from those quarantined at home or in hotels.

But one is a part-time ambulance man who helped transport a Covid patient to hospital.

The fourth worked at a Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge border point, helping travelers fill in electronic health declaration forms. She was a close contact of a previously confirmed case.

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