Hong Kong reported around 60 new Covid-19 infections on Friday, 47 of them linked to the cluster originating at Ursus Fitness gym in Sai Ying Pun, according to the Centre for Health Protection.
The figures — the highest since late January — mean the city’s daily infection figure has almost tripled since Thursday.
A total of 64 confirmed cases have been linked to the cluster so far, with 50 customers, seven members of staff and seven close contacts being infected.
Friday’s cases included six imported cases, one of which carried the South African virus mutation. Five other cases had untraceable origins while two others were linked to confirmed cases outside of the cluster.
Health authorities announced tightened restrictions for fitness centres on Friday, making mask-wearing again compulsory.
Other existing restrictions include no more than four people per fitness station and at least 1.5 metres between all gym equipment. Patrons must also use the government’s LeaveHomeSafe tracing app or record their personal details when entering gyms.
“In view of the recent large-scale cluster outbreak in fitness centres, we need to tighten the infection control measures in fitness centres with immediate effect, in particular reinstating the mask-on requirement, in order to contain the epidemic,” a spokesperson from the Food and Health Bureau said on Friday.
“Many of the confirmed cases in this cluster were in good health condition all along and did not show any symptoms when they were confirmed positive to Covid-19,” the bureau added.
The government called on gym personnel to take regular tests and to get vaccinated against the virus as soon as possible. “A higher proportion of persons receiving vaccination in the community will strengthen the control of the epidemic situation, thus creating the conditions for relaxing social distancing measures,” the spokesperson said.
Staff at fitness centres became eligible for the government’s vaccination drive on Tuesday.
Seventeen of Thursday’s 19 local infections were linked to the gym cluster, with at least one international school being ordered to suspend face-to-face classes. Health authorities have not ruled out enforcing tighter measures on fitness centres in a bid to contain community spread of the virus.
Hong Kong has seen a total of 11,211 infections and 203 deaths as of Friday.