Hong Kong recorded its third death from the coronavirus on Sunday, while the number of confirmed cases hit 114. Meanwhile, experts warned that the virus may persist and become like the “seasonal flu.”
The Hospital Authority confirmed over the weekend that a 76-year-old woman, who lived in Un Chau Estate in Sham Shui Po, died from the SARS-like virus in Caritas Medical Centre. She had underlying illnesses and tested positive for Covid-19 on March 1. She had no travel history and was categorised as a locally infected case. Her husband – a 79-year-old man – also contracted the virus and remains hospitalised.
Among the five additional cases recorded in Hong Kong on Sunday were a 76-year-old man and 59-year-old woman. Both were linked to a tour group of 21 people who visited India between January 31 to February 24. According to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), five persons from the group have been confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus.
Another newly confirmed case involved a 55-year-old man – the husband of a previously infected person who visited the Buddhist temple Fook Wai Ching She in North Point where a community outbreak occurred. The CHP said a total of 19 patients thus far had either visited the temple or come into contact with the temple-goers.
The fifth additional case involved a 41-year-old man who travelled to Tokyo and Glasgow (via London) last month during the incubation period. The CHP said his household contacts – his wife, three daughters and two domestic helpers – will be placed under quarantine.
Speaking on TVB’s On the Record on Sunday, infectious disease expert Yuen Kwok-yung said that, without vaccines and effective medication, the coronavirus outbreak may not come to an end, but rather become like the seasonal flu, which may ease in the summer but re-emerge during winter.
“[The outbreak] will not end. Maybe it will ease during summer, but it may be imported into Hong Kong again during winter,” Yuen said.
First detected in Hubei, China, more than 110,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19, with a recent spike of infections in South Korea, Italy and Iran. As of Sunday, over 3,800 have died from the SARS-like disease worldwide, with 366 recorded in Italy, making it the country with the second-highest death toll after China.
Yuen said the factors affecting the spread of the virus in Hong Kong has shifted from mainland China to overseas.
“At first, they were afraid of us, now we are afraid of them,” he said.
CHP’s head of the Communicable Disease Branch Chuang Shuk-kwan agreed that the epidemic would not disappear in the summer like the SARS outbreak did in 2003, adding that the authorities will try to delay the spread in Hong Kong in order to search for effective methods to curb the outbreak.
“We understand there’s a possibility that this disease will stay with us,” Chuang said in a press conference on Sunday. “Be it [by] newer drugs or vaccines, or when we understand more about route of transmission and the disease[‘s] nature, we’ll have better methods to deal with it.”