Hong Kong on Friday reported a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, with 21 local confirmed cases and around 40 preliminary positive ones, as the health chief warned that the city was on the brink of a fourth wave.

Among the 21 local cases, nine were from unknown sources and the remainder were linked to earlier infections. Five more cases involved travellers from overseas for a total of 26.

Coronavirus virus covid-19 social distancing restaurant
Photo: GovHK.

The government said classes for primary one to three students would be suspended from Monday in a bid to curb an imminent fourth wave of the pandemic.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan urged people to avoid unnecessary social gatherings, warning that a failure to stem further infections would lead to another community outbreak. “If we don’t stay vigilant, the fourth wave will readily spin out of control.”

Chan said a rise in upper respiratory tract infections was “worrying” as they share a similar transmission path to Covid-19. Around 60 per cent of recent infections related to primary school students, with 70 per cent of these infections involving the younger pupils.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan
Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Kindergartens and childcare centres were suspended starting last Saturday, and will stay closed at least until December 6.

Chan said the government has not ruled out suspending classes for other upper primary and secondary schools.

Mandatory testing

The secretary also announced that mandatory testing would be stepped up, with those showing symptoms, workers in old people’s homes and taxi drivers being required to undergo testing.

Chan said that the Labour and Welfare Bureau is considering providing an one-off subsidy to those diagnosed as infected, as the government understands their jobs would be impacted.

The government has prepared mobile testing stations in case of a community outbreak.

Additional reporting: Candice Chau.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.