The number of coronavirus cases in Hong Kong climbed to 74 on Sunday. Among the latest confirmed cases were a Diamond Princess cruise passenger who returned to the city from Japan, as well as two elderly women who visited the same Buddhist temple in North Point as two previously infected people.
The 68-year-old male cruise liner passenger tested positive for Covic-19 on Saturday, after returning to Hong Kong on the first government charter flight last Thursday.
He was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment, after developing a cough and fever and is now in stable condition.
His wife, who travelled on the cruise ship with him, had not shown any symptoms but is currently under quarantine.
A third – and final – flight chartered by the government to return Hong Kong residents from the quarantined ship in Yokohama arrived on Sunday with just five passengers on board. So far, 193 passengers had been sent back to Hong Kong, according to the government, while around 20 others took domestic flights home. All of them are under quarantine at the Chun Yeung Estate quarantine centre.
First detected in Hubei, China, almost 80,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 2,600 have died from the SARS-like disease.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) revealed that two newly infected patients – two women aged 80 and 76 – had visited the Fook Wai Ching She Buddhist temple at Maylun Apartments in North Point. Two other people with confirmed cases had previously visited the temple.
Infectious disease specialist Joseph Tsang said on RTHK’s Millennium radio show on Monday that the disease could have spread easily inside the temple if people did not wear a face mask during their visit. He urged to CHP to track down other visitors who had been to the temple in the same period as the four infected patients.
“These cases show that there could be some environmental contaminants in the temple, such as saliva carrying the virus – otherwise there would not be so many infected persons,” Tsang said.
Tsang added there could be a chain of infections on Hong Kong Island, as 30 per cent of the infected patients came from that area. He advised the Department of Health to use a supercomputer to track the spread of the SARS-like virus in the community.
On Sunday, the Hong Kong government announced that a 77-year-old man from Hong Kong who lived in Wuhan – Hubei’s capital – had died of pneumonia. It was later confirmed that he had been infected with Covid-19
So far, the government has yet to announce any evacuation plan to pull its stranded citizens out of Hubei Province, the epicentre of the outbreak.
As of Sunday morning, over 2,700 Hongkongers remained trapped across more than 37 different cities in Hubei, including three pregnant women whose due dates are in the next two months, according to a government statement.
A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the government has been liaising with several departments, public health experts and the mainland authorities to draw up with a “sound and safe plan” to bring back Hong Kong citizens in batches as soon as possible.
“The HKSAR Government is determined to overcome all difficulties with the aim of bringing back the Hong Kong people stranded in Hubei,” the spokesman said.
“There is a need for all relevant parties to come together to draw up a sound and safe plan in order to reduce the public health risks to a minimum. We will lose no time in liaising with various parties to finalise the plan as soon as possible,” the spokesman added.