Hong Kong’s coronavirus tally grew again on Tuesday as health authorities confirmed an additional 48 cases – half of which had unknown origins.

The resurgence has been linked to multiple community clusters and has prompted the strictest rounds of social distancing measures yet, as the city tackles a rising number of untraceable local infections.

File photo: May James/HKFP.

Health authorities said eight of the newly-confirmed cases had been imported from countries such as the Philippines and India, while 16 were linked to other infected patients. A total of 24 derived from unidentified sources.

The government on Monday slammed the breaks on moves to relax restrictions by bringing the cap on public gatherings down from a maximum of 50 people per group to four. It also imposed compulsory mask-wearing on public transport and the closure of certain businesses such as gyms, bars and spas.

‘Very worrying’

At a regular press conference, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, expressed concern about the potential of invisible Covid-19 infections.

“The actual number of cases is quite high,” she said. “Half of the reported cases we have [are of] unknown sources, so it is very worrying because the cases can spread in the community and also we do not have a definite source. That means there are lots of unknown sources in the community and they may be asymptomatic.”

Chuang added that many of the new cases involved elderly people who seldom left their homes except to walk outside and visit restaurants: “This is quite a usual habit for local people. If that is the risk factor then it is very worrying because many of us may get infected unknowingly.”

First detected in China’s Hubei province, Covid-19 has infected more than 13.1 million people worldwide, leading to at least 573,288 deaths, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.