Entertainment venues make for virus hotspots

Local | Wallis Wang 19 Nov 2020

Entertainment venues contributed to most Covid-19 transmissions during the first and second waves of the outbreak, causing more than 90 confirmed cases, researchers from the Chinese University found.

Lee Shui-shan, deputy director of the Stanley Ho Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at CUHK, said the team found that 91 of the 324 local cases recorded during the first two waves were from entertainment venues, including bars and karaokes, with the longest virus transmission chain starting at a bar and lasting 26 days. A total of 103 cases were linked to the transmission chain, including 72 infected in the bar and 31 infected at home and other places.

Researchers suggested the government consider the risks associated with different venues when they adjust social distancing measures.

Lee said people face higher infection risks at entertainment venues, as they spend more time there and it is harder to track down infection sources due to interactions with strangers. But he also said current social distancing measures for entertainment venues are effective, as fewer infections from those venues were recorded during the third wave of Covid-19.

Former health secretary Yeoh Eng-kiong, who is also the director of the Centre for Health Systems and Policy Research at CUHK, suggested the government use the findings as a risk assessment tool. He also said a fourth wave could be prevented if citizens stay vigilant and undergo tests as soon as they develop symptoms.

Meanwhile, the government tightened quarantine arrangements starting yesterday, banning people from visiting friends and family who are undergoing their 14-day quarantine upon their return from overseas.

Arrivals now are not allowed to see anyone in their rooms without authorization, except hotel staff. If they need daily supplies, they can ask relatives, friends or hotel staff to deliver the supplies at the door to avoid personal contact, health authorities said. Anyone violating the order could face six months' imprisonment and a fine of HK$25,000.

But infectious diseases expert Leung Chi-chiu pointed out there are still loopholes in the city's current anti-epidemic measures. For example, the authorities will not designate hotels for arrivals, meaning they will be able to visit all districts in Hong Kong as well as use public transport to travel there, which could cause the virus to spread.

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