Hong Kong health authorities have said the city may need to “coexist” with the coronavirus, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the deadly contagion “may never go away.”

Meanwhile, the city recorded one new locally transmitted Covid-19 case on Thursday, pushing its total number of infections to 1,051. The patient was the 63-year-old husband of the first local infection in 23 consecutive days, a 66-year-old woman.

Chuang Shuk-kwan
Chuang Shuk-kwan. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

He has been asymptomatic and was sent to a quarantine centre on Tuesday. He gave a deep throat saliva sample the following morning, which tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday.

He became the third person in his family to have contracted the virus, though the source of their infection remains unknown. His 5-year-old granddaughter was also confirmed to have Covid-19 the day before. Test results for six of his close contacts came back negative, but some have remained hospitalised due to respiratory symptoms.

The newly-confirmed patient lives in Block 5 of Lei Muk Shue Estate and runs a mobile watch repair stall on Tsuen Wan Market Street. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said in a press conference on Thursday that people who live in the same building as the patients are eligible for a free voluntary test.

A total of 47 saliva collection bottles were distributed to residents in Cheuk Ming Building – where the granddaughter lives. Authorities have prepared thousands of bottles to be distributed around 850 units in Block 5 of Lei Muk Shue Estate.

Department of Health staff Cheuk Ming Building
Staff from the Department of Health visit Cheuk Ming Building in Tsuen Wan on May13. It is the residence of one of the newly infected patients. Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of CHP’s communicable disease branch, urged citizens to stay vigilant and seek medical help as soon as they develop mild symptoms. She said many infected people have developed only mild or even no symptoms, and the invisible chain of transmission in communities was difficult to break.

“Some citizens don’t go to the doctors when they have flu-like symptoms. They should not take this lightly,” Chuang said.

On Wednesday, the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan said in a media briefing that Covid-19 – which, according to researches at Johns Hopkins University, has infected more than four million people and killed nearly 300,000 worldwide – may never be fully eradicated.

“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Ryan said.

“HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus.”

Asked about the WHO’s warning, Chuang said she agreed with the international agency’s opinion, saying the future of the situation in Hong Kong remains to be seen.

“Many experts and the WHO have said this disease is difficult to handle and hard to uproot, so we may have to accept that this virus will coexist with us,” she said.

“Because it is a novel virus – whether it will have several hits, or will always be around, or will hit us seasonally like flu – it is all unknown.”

Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.