Hong Kong has recorded two new locally transmitted coronavirus infections after 23 consecutive days with only imported cases, health authorities confirmed on Wednesday. They also reported another imported case, bringing the city’s total number of infections to 1,050 with four deaths.
One of the patients was a 66-year-old woman who lives in Lei Muk Shue Estate. She developed symptoms including fever, cough and runny nose last Friday, and visited the Mrs Wu York Yu General Out-patient Clinic in Kwai Chung on Monday. The source of her infection was unknown – she has no travel history in the past three months and has not been in contact with other coronavirus patients.
Six of her eight family members have been hospitalised after displaying the relevant symptoms, including a cough and slight fever. Her five-year-old granddaughter later tested positive for the virus.
According to Sumly Chan, chairman of the Tsuen Wan District Council, authorities sent personnel to clean the lobby, lifts and some staircases inside the building where the grandmother resided.
The newly-imported case was a 34-year-old man who visited family in Pakistan from March 12 to last Friday.
Dr Chui Tak-yi, the undersecretary for food and health, said authorities were highly concerned about the new local cases. He cited the resurgence of infections in South Korea and Jilin in China as evidence that sporadic cases could not be completely avoided.
“We must heighten our alertness. Citizens cannot let their guard down and must continue to carry out anti-epidemic measures,” he said, adding that curbing the outbreak will be a “long battle.”
Health authorities have previously said the coronavirus could only be considered under control if the city saw no local cases for 28 days – the equivalent of two incubation periods.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said infected patients may show little or no symptoms. She urged citizens to seek medical help and testing as soon as they develop minor respiratory symptoms.
Starting on Friday, authorities will step up testing at the Hong Kong International Airport by distributing around 500 free Covid-19 sample collection bottles per day to staff there.
Speaking on Commercial Radio on Wednesday, leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said the new locally-transmitted case was a “major warning” to the government.
He added authorities should not ease anti-epidemic control measures further in the coming two weeks: “You now know there is an invisible transmission chain. If you can’t find the source, and cannot break the transmission chain, you can’t resume classes.”
“What’s most important is to find as [many] contacts as possible, close or non-close, to get them tested and quarantined.”
The government relaxed some of its social distancing rules last week, opening some businesses such as fitness centres and beauty parlours with restrictions. The public gathering limit was also upped from four to eight people. Secondary students are set to resume class gradually from May 27.
Chui said the government will continue to monitor the situation and consider whether it would be appropriate to further relax social distancing restrictions: “I think with a new confirmed [cases in] one day, we will observe very closely the trend and decide whether we need to adjust the measures accordingly.”