Cathay stewardess positive after flight to Australia

Top News | 11 Oct 2021

Jane Cheung

A Cathay Pacific flight attendant has tested positive for Covid-19 in Australia after operating a flight on Thursday, health authorities say.

Although Hong Kong recorded zero infections yesterday, the Centre for Health Protection announced an overseas case - the 54-year-old flight attendant, who tested negative in Hong Kong on Wednesday and then tested positive upon arriving in Sydney the next day.

The asymptomatic woman had received two doses of the German-made BioNTech/Fosun vaccine in Hong Kong on March 10 and April 6.

She lives in Block 2, Seaview Crescent, Tung Chung, which has been slapped with a mandatory test notice.

Authorities, meanwhile, are trying to establish a health code system and strengthening testing and contact tracing strategies to make border reopening possible, Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu said.

Writing on his blog, Lee said such efforts are made to "create conditions favoring border reopening" and so the second meeting with mainland authorities and experts can take place sooner.

The first meeting enabled an honest exchange of opinions on the gradual resumption of quarantine-free cross-border travel and possible risks after reopening, he said.

"I've requested corresponding bureau heads to follow up in full force, including the IT bureau to establish [a system for a] health code [and] the Food and Health Bureau to take the lead in stepping up tests, contact tracing and preventing community transmission."

On Friday, Hong Kong recorded an unknown-source infection - a 48-year-old male airport freight worker - snapping the 51-day streak of zero local infections.

Sewage samples from his residential building in Tai Po came back positive, but they were taken on Thursday - before the man was diagnosed. Experts believe he could be the source of the positive sewage samples.

The man later tested positive for the Delta variant.

Genetic sequencing could not match his variant with imported cases in Hong Kong since September 12, but upon comparing it with cases globally, a Polytechnic University team found his virus to be highly similar to cases trending in the United Kingdom.

Sources say he could have contracted the virus from flight crew who arrived in Hong Kong and left on same-day flights.

His case raised doubts on whether border reopening talks with the mainland would be pushed back, but Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said it will not affect the discussion.

Lam said authorities have reported the man's case to Beijing and received feedback that high-risk workers should be subjected to more frequent tests to prevent cases from spreading to the community.

As a result, she said the frequency of weekly tests for high-risk workers, including employees at the airport and designated hotels, will soon be increased.

On launching a health code system in Hong Kong, Lam said authorities will only require those who wish to cross borders to use them, who would then have to declare their whereabouts and addresses.

She said Hong Kong does not have a system to trace people's daily activities, adding the public may not accept the universal implementation of a health code even to enter restaurants and shopping malls, similar to protocols in the mainland and Macau.

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