Hong Kong has recorded three new locally transmitted coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the city’s total number of confirmed cases to 1,087.
The newly infected people were all linked to a 34-year-old woman, confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 locally on Sunday. Together with her 56-year-old husband, the cases broke Hong Kong’s 16-day streak of only imported infections.
The latest patients included a 27-year-old male paramedic, who treated the female patient on Saturday. According to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), he had worn a surgical mask, goggles and gloves throughout but not an N95 respirator, which would have offered a higher level of protection.
He was asymptomatic and had previously handled arrivals from overseas at local hospitals. He lives in Fook Hoi House of Lek Yuen Estate in Sha Tin, the same housing estate as two new patients, but he had been staying at a friend’s home in Hin Tin Village in Tai Wai recently.
At Monday’s press conference, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of CHP’s communicable disease branch, said it was possibly the first time a paramedic had contracted the virus on duty.
Asked whether the Fire Services Department should require paramedics to wear N95 masks, Chuang said the department will be fully prepared to handle suspected cases in the future, adding new guidelines may be issued later.
The two other newly-infected persons – aged 40 and 36 – are the 34-year-old woman’s colleagues at a Kerry Logistics warehouse in Kwai Chung. Both are residents of Luen Yuet House in Kwai Luen Estate. They developed respiratory symptoms such as fever and cough in late April, around a month earlier than the onset date of their colleague’s symptoms.
The woman identified on Saturday was responsible for labelling products at the warehouse, including imported food items for sale at Marks and Spencer (M&S) stores. The British multinational retailer said the next day that its logistics partner had “undertook… thorough disinfection and sterilisation” of their facilities, and all M&S stores would be disinfected.
“While we have not been advised there are any direct health risks to our customers, out of an abundance of caution, we are disinfecting all of our stores in Hong Kong now to provide reassurance to our customers,” the company wrote on Facebook.
The CHP added the warehouse cluster had more than 30 close contacts, all of whom will be sent to a government quarantine centre.
Under Secretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi said the new batch of locally transmitted cases was a warning, indicating that the epidemic may become the “new normal” – a notion raised by health experts around the world.
“It is not possible to anticipate zero local infections in a short period time. Citizens should have enough mental preparation and awareness,” he said.
He added the government’s anti-epidemic measures would be adjusted according to the development of the epidemic, people’s livelihood and the economy.
The current ban on public gatherings of more than eight people will remain in effect until Thursday. Police have cited the restriction as the reason for their ban on the annual vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4.