Red flag over infections from unknown sources

Business | Jane Cheung 9 Jul 2020

Hong Kong has been hit by five local Covid-19 infections from unknown sources for a second day, prompting the Centre for Health Protection to renew a warning about a wider community outbreak.

The five cases were among 24 new cases confirmed yesterday, with eight linked to a home for the elderly and six to eateries, taking Hong Kong's coronavirus tally to 1,324.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the center's communicable diseases unit, said the situation is more worrying than in March when Hong Kong recorded dozens of imported cases daily.

"Many local infections from unidentified sources can easily escalate into large outbreaks because the coronavirus is highly contagious," Chuang said. And most recent cases pack a high viral load and are highly infectious.

Five of the new cases from unknown sources included a 92-year-old man living at Ching Yuet House on Tin Shui Wai's Tin Ching Estate, a woman, 42, at Tsuen Wan's Bayview Garden, another woman, 69, at Hoi Wen House in Mong Kok's Hoi Fu Court and a man, 31, at The Leighton Hill in Happy Valley.

A 64-year-old man living at Ping Shek Estate's Yuk Shek House was also confirmed with the coronavirus. But Chuang said he had not gone to the nearby virus-linked Pan Kei congee shop.

Prominent experts had called for authorities to restore social-distancing rules before Father's Day last month as local infections from "silent transmission" chains had surged just two weeks after curbs were relaxed.

And University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, a government adviser of Covid-19, again urged a new tightening of anti-virus measures.

But he said the book fair and school classes should be allowed to go on.

Chuang said authorities were applying a "suppress and lift" strategy. "It's time to tighten our measures,'' she added, "but the extent will be decided by senior government officials."

On the Kong Tai home for the elderly in Wong Tai Sin, four more residents and four staff were confirmed with Covid-19 after an 85-year-old woman resident became the SAR's first patient from such a facility on Tuesday. Chuang said one of the infected staff is a cleaner who works in another home for the elderly, and health officers were moving on tests at that facility.

She said one of the infected residents at Kong Tai, a 79-year-old man, had been outside and may have brought in the virus.

And several people had barged into the home to see relatives despite a ban on visitors.

The Pan Kei congee shop and the Sun Fat Restaurant on Man Ying Street in Jordan also saw six more cases yesterday, including a 41-year-old woman whose 58-year-old husband and son, 14, were diagnosed on Tuesday.

A 71-year-old man who had been to Pan Kei was another confirmed case. The other patients were four men, including three taxi drivers linked to the Sun Fat Restaurant.

One of them is a 55-year-old man with diabetes and chronic kidney problems. He is in Queen Elizabeth Hospital's intensive care unit and connected to breathing aid.

His wife and 12-year-old daughter have tested "preliminary positive."

In addition, there were five imported cases comprising three men and two women. Two were returnees from India, two from the Philippines and one from Kazakhstan whose three-month-old baby tested preliminary positive.

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