Health officials have warned of a new cluster of Covid-19 infections linked to a gym on Hong Kong Island. Seven members of staff and ten gym patrons of the Ursus Fitness gym in Sai Ying Pun have been infected, the Centre of Health Protection (CHP) said on Thursday.

The cluster is linked to a 27-year-old fitness trainer who was confirmed to be positive on Wednesday. The gym was closed until further notice on Tuesday.

Ursus Fitness
Photo: Ursus Fitness via Facebook.

The gym is popular among the city’s western expatriate community. At least one close contact works at the French International School campus in Tseung Kwan O. The school has been ordered to suspend face-to-face classes for several days.

The CHP’s Head of Communicable Diseases branch Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan did not rule out the possibility of suspending face-to-face classes at other schools, saying any schools with close contacts to confirmed cases will be asked to suspend in-person classes while the affected person undergoes testing at a quarantine centre.

Chuang said many Ursus Fitness gym users did not wear masks while participating in both group and personal training sessions on the premises.

French International School Tseung Kwan O
French International School, Tseung Kwan O campus. Photo: Wikicommons.

She warned the number of cases in the cluster may exceed 50 in the coming days: “Altogether we may have more than 50 clients and staff relating to the gym [infected by the virus]”

The CHP has called for people who have frequented the premises since early March to be tested for the virus as soon as possible.

Instructors at Ursus Fitness have also taught classes at other gyms in the city, including H-Kore. One instructor has also been a customer at PureFitness.

Under Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Chui Tak-yi said the government was considering imposing stricter measures on gyms to prevent future outbreaks.

Hong Kong’s latest cluster accounts for 17 of the 22 new infections reported on Thursday, three of which were imported. The latest outbreak threatens to reverse the ebb of the city’s fourth wave, which saw the city reporting low double digit figures since early February.

Fourth suspected death

A fourth person has reportedly died within days of receiving the Sinovac vaccine, local media reported citing sources on Thursday.

Health officials refused to confirm the reported death: “The Hospital Authority will report these cases to the Department of Health and the Civil Service Bureau under the current notification system… and will also pass them onto the expert committee for their further assessment.” Chief Manager Linda Yu said.

The Hospital Authority building
The Hospital Authority building. Photo: WikiCommons.

The reported death follows three confirmed deaths earlier this week of people who have passed away within several days of receiving a Sinovac jab, two of whom suffered from existing chronic illnesses.

Under-secretary Chui said on Thursday that the government will distribute pamphlets providing further information for members of the public to consider before they decide whether to take the vaccine. He said the Department of Health was currently consulting experts and gathering feedback from vaccination centres personnel and recipients of the vaccines.

When asked why Hong Kong was not following protocol on mainland China whereby the Sinovac vaccine was not administered to people aged 60 and over, the under-secretary said the vaccine advisory panel had recommended the vaccine for use in Hong Kong after reviewing all the available data.

Around 10,900 people had received the vaccinations by Wednesday since the vaccination drive began in late February, 7,800 of whom received Sinovac,

Correction 12.03.21: A previous version of this article stated that instructors at Ursus Fitness had also taught classes at Pure Fitness. This has been corrected to say the instructor at Ursus had been a customer at Pure Fitness, not an instructor.

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