Maid's mutant case triggers evacuation

Top News | Jane Cheung 5 May 2021

Three Filipinos tested positive for Covid-19 in the mandatory tests for 370,000 foreign domestic helpers, including one carrying a more infectious mutant strain whose case triggered an evacuation of hundreds of residents at Allway Gardens in Tsuen Wan.

The helper, who lives with her employer in Block R at Allway Gardens, was among four confirmed cases reported yesterday. The other two Filipinos were preliminary positive cases expected to be confirmed today, said Centre for Health Protection's communicable disease branch head Chuang Shuk-kwan.

Chuang said the 44-year-old helper from Tsuen Wan arrived on Philippine Airlines' PR 300 flight on March 31 and quarantined at Dorsett Wanchai Hong Kong for 21 days.

On April 21, she started working for her employer. She took the test again on Sunday following compulsory test notices for helpers and her results came back positive with a very low viral load.

She has been admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital, where her antibodies tests also came back positive.

"It means she has contracted the virus for some time. It usually takes more than 10 days to develop antibodies," Chuang said.

The woman has yet to be classified as a local or imported case as she spent some time in the community before testing positive.

Genetic sequencing found the helper carried the N501Y mutant strain. Hundreds of residents in all 200 units of her block will stay at quarantine centers for 21 days.

The block was locked down last night to test all of the residents before evacuating them to Penny's Bay. Mandatory test notices have also been issued to cover locations the helper visited, including various Tsuen Wan sites, D Park mall, Wellcome supermarket at Allways Gardens, Tin Wun music center and Yip's Children's Choral and Performing Arts Centre in Kwai Fong's Metroplaza mall.

Her employers' children attend Annunciation Catholic Kindergarten, which will also be closed while all teachers and students undergo tests.

The remaining three fresh cases yesterday were imported - two from Indonesia and one from India.

Chuang said the two other helpers who tested preliminary positive do not have any travel history. The two are friends who often spend their days off together.

One of them lives in Block N2 at Quarry Bay's Kornhill. The other lives in Royalton in Pok Fu Lam.

Another preliminary positive case was a teacher at Ling Liang Church Sau Tak Primary School in Tung Chung. She is believed to have caught the virus from her helper carrying the N501Y strain. The school will also be closed to test all teachers and students.

Her helper visited Citygate Mall on April 11, the same time as an Indian man and his friend -- the first two Hong Kong cases carrying the strain in the community. Despite the helper only passing by the mall to head to a nearby park, she recalled having used a washroom on the second floor.

Meanwhile, authorities plan to lift the flight ban for Britain and Ireland on Friday. But SAR residents returning from these two countries will still have to undergo a 21-day quarantine and provide a negative virus test 72 hours before boarding flights.

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