North Point cluster triggers evacuation

Top News | Mandy Zheng 28 Jan 2021

All residents in units six and seven of Tung Fat Building block C in North Point were evacuated after 13 people living in eight flats contracted Covid-19.

After inspecting the building, government adviser Yuen Kwok-yung said vertical transmission could have occurred among units six and seven in the 15-story North Point block, which was built in 1965.

The 13 patients live in eight units on the second, third, fourth, eighth, 10th and 15th floors. All but one are from units five to eight, meaning all live on the same side of the building, facing east.

Five live in units six and seven, which share an air shaft where exhaust from toilets and kitchens is released.

"The common air shaft is extremely narrow. If a household turns on its exhaust fan without opening the window, then it's very easy for the hot air to go up [in the shaft], creating the chimney effect," Yuen said.

This could increase the chance of the coronavirus spreading on different floors, he said, adding that he had noticed a foul smell from the shaft.

All residents from the block need to undergo compulsory testing, as well as those living in neighboring blocks A, B, C and D.

"We are now seeing a rebound [in cases]. The reason is very likely that some construction worker clusters have brought the virus into the community, and unfortunately into many old buildings."

Yuen said the block's design was "not ideal" and did not rule out the possibility of a lockdown for compulsory testing in North Point - an old neighborhood like Yau Ma Tei, part of which was sealed off on Tuesday night.

This came as Hong Kong recorded 60 new infections yesterday, including three imported and 57 locally transmitted cases.

Twenty-one local cases were untraceable, and 40 others were preliminary positive waiting for confirmation.

The city's infection tally was 10,282 with 174 deaths, after a 67-year-old man and 56-year-old woman died yesterday.

The woman, who also suffered from chronic illness, was rushed to Kwong Wah Hospital in the morning yesterday with shortness of breath before dying in the afternoon.

Her case has been referred to the coroner to determine the cause of her death.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection's communicable disease branch, said 10 more residential buildings were added to the mandatory testing list, including four in Jordan, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok. Other buildings are located in Tuen Mun, To Kwa Wan, Ho Man Tin and Sai Wan Ho.

Chuang said that an infection cluster linked to Wing Ming Congee on Bulkeley Street in Hung Hom had grown to six confirmed cases and one preliminary case.

Four of the seven cases, all store staffers, were family members who could have contracted the virus from home or at work. The restaurant's remaining staff were sent to quarantine.

Health officials could not determine the source of the cluster's first infection, who began to show symptoms on Monday.

Chuang urged people who had visited the store between January 16 and last Saturday to get tested, saying "there's bound to be some risk as so many workers were infected."

Meanwhile, funeral operators in Hung Hom fear their business would be affected if they become the next target of a lockdown, after the government yesterday listed the site as a designated area for mandatory testing.

Any building in such areas could be subject to compulsory testing as long as one infection has been detected in the past two weeks, instead of two cases from different flats.

Authorities have also put parts of Hung Hom, Jordan, Yau Ma Tei-Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po on the list.

Kwok Hoi-pong, chairman of the Funeral Business Association, said that some funeral goods stores had moved out their products in advance, fearing a lockdown.

Late on Tuesday night, authorities required 39 more buildings to undergo mandatory testing, eight of which are on Hing Yan Street and Hing Yin Street, where sewage samples tested positive, as well as five in Jordan's Ferry Point.

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