Fatality statistics show toll on elderly

Local | Jasmine Ling 20 Aug 2020

At least 10 elderly have died after contracting Covid-19 while attending family gatherings or dining at restaurants, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said.

He urged people to reduce gatherings to prevent spreading the coronavirus to the elderly.

Ho said everyone who died in the latest wave of infections were aged 60 or above. For those older than 80, the fatality rate is 25 percent.

The latest wave of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, which began early last month, has killed 66 patients so far, compared to six in the first two waves.

Since early last month, the government has provided free virus testing at high risk clusters, including elderly homes and domestic helpers living in dormitories.

Ho said health officials have retrieved more than 80 percent of specimen bottles from elderly homes, but just 30 percent from other clusters such as the Kwai Tsing container terminal, taxi drivers and restaurant workers.

"It will be difficult to break [the transmission chain], given the low participation rate," Ho said.

He urged people linked to the Kwai Tsing cluster to stay vigilant - especially those living with elderly aged over 70, as they can be vulnerable to the disease.

"It's not secure enough even if you have taken the virus test, you might spread the disease to the elderly at home. You might not be aware of the illness after recovery, but it can be fatal for the elderly."

As of yesterday, 66 patients have been linked with the container port, of whom 18 are aged 60 or above.

Ho suggested the government set up virus testing booths in container ports for on-the-spot specimen collection and test workers every three to seven days to contain the transmission.

The warning came as the Hong Kong Medical Association said around 2,000 medics and nurses have been recruited to help collect samples in citywide virus tests set to start September 1.

They will be divided into groups of 18, with each consisting of a team leader, seven deputies and 10 members.

Authorities will set up specimen collection centers across all 18 districts in schools, sports grounds and community centers.

The centers will be open from 8am to 8pm for one to two weeks, with three to four time slots available each day.

Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, president of the Hong Kong Doctors Union, said some private hospitals have barred doctors from being recruited for the mass testing scheme to conduct ward rounds, which has made them less willing to sign up.

"[Some private hospitals] are worried about these doctors contracting the virus. They aren't allowed to visit patients even 14 days after the scheme," Yeung said.

Ho said he expects fewer people would join the mass testing.

The testing came too late, he said, as transmission chains in domestic worker dormitories and container terminals sprung up late last month.


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