The Hong Kong government has announced it will extend special remote working arrangements for civil servants by another week, as the city registered a record 118 new Covid-19 infections and one related death on Thursday.
Government workers will continue working from home until August 2 while authorities pledged to take measures to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing. The government said emergency and essential public services will continue, as it appealed to private companies to let their employees work remotely.
“The government appreciates that the reduction in public services in view of the epidemic will bring inconvenience to the public, however it appeals for their understanding,” the statement read.
On Thursday, Hong Kong hit another daily record-high number of cases, pushing the city’s tally to 2,249 infections. A 63-year-old male patient passed away in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei the afternoon, raising the death toll to 15.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said among the 118 newly confirmed infections, seven were imported from the Philippines, India and Japan, while the rest were locally transmitted.
“The epidemic in Hong Kong remains severe, it is still on an upward trend,” said Under Secretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi.
Several of the new patients worked at restaurants. The businesses involved included a Japanese restaurant in Pacific Place, a Thai restaurant in Tai Kok Tsui, a McDonald’s in Telford Plaza, Tai Po’s Market Place and an eatery in Tuen Mun’s Tsui Lam Estate.
A teacher who works at the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Mrs Fung Wong Fung Ting College in Sha Tin was also confirmed to have Covid-19. Three teachers and one teaching assistant at different schools tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a cluster involving a banquet in Mong Kok on July 9 saw two more infections. Local media earlier reported the dinner party guests were celebrating the anniversary of the city’s handover to China, with online videos appearing to show more than 40 unmasked participants singing and dancing at the event.
The CHP also confirmed a police officer who worked at the force’s headquarters in Wan Chai had contracted the virus, while another officer tested positive in a preliminary screening. Two government workers – an immigration officer and staff at the Land Registry – were among the new patients.
The Hospital Authority (HA) said one patient had donated blood at a mobile station in Tze Wan Shan on July 9. Health authorities said they would follow up on an individual at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung who received a red blood cell transfusion from the patient.
Linda Yu, the HA’s Chief Manager of Clinical Effectiveness and Technology Management, said the blood donor is a family member of a previous infection. She said authorities believed the infection was not linked to the blood transfusion procedure.
“According to overseas experience, the risk of having Covid-19 infection by blood donation is fairly low… blood donation centres are already doing infection control to minimise risk of virus transmission,” Yu said.
The CHP’s head of communicable disease branch Chuang Shuk-kwan also confirmed local media reports that six crew members, one from each of the six vessels, tested positive for the virus. They are under quarantine on the ships parked near Lamma Island. Together with their close contacts, a total of 140 people are being quarantined.
Chuang said the crew members had to guard the vessels and therefore could not be sent to the city’s quarantine centres. They will complete their quarantine by August 3 latest.
Correction 24.7.20: a previous version of this article said the Japanese restaurant where a patient worked was in Taikoo Place. It is in Pacific Place.