A Hong Kong quarantine hotel cleaner has been infected with a mutant strain of Covid-19 as the city records an additional 10 imported cases, mostly from the UK. Meanwhile, over 700 students, parents and teachers have been vaccinated on school campuses after outreach services were launched on Friday.

Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection. Photo: HK Gov screenshot.

The hotel cleaner infected with the L452R strain had no recent travel history, the head of the Centre for Health Protection Chuang Shuk-kwan said during a routine press briefing on Friday. Her case is currently classified as having no known origin. Depending on whether health authorities can establish the source of her infection, the city may see a break in its 27-day streak without local cases of unknown origins.

The 41-year-old-woman tested positive after she was tasked with cleaning a quarantine room at the Bridal Tea House Yau Ma Tei Hotel on Wednesday. A traveller infected with the same mutant strain had left the room three days earlier. Experts are working on confirming the genetic make-up of the cases in order to establish an epidemiological link, Chuang said.

Port Centre. Photo: Skychiu813 via Google Maps.

Immediately after cleaning the room, the woman tested positive with a high viral load using a test kit obtained at a mobile test centre, Chuang said. However, two other virus tests and one antibody test was done after she was hospitalised – both returned negative.

Authorities will not rule out the possibility that she was not actually infected but that her initial, positive virus test was a reaction to fragments of dormant virus inhaled during the cleaning. “We consider this a confirmed case at this moment,” Chuang said.

The part-time hotel cleaner also worked at two other hotels in Repulse Bay and Ap Lei Chau. The Port Centre in Aberdeen where the patient lived was locked down overnight with over 580 individuals undergoing mandatory tests, but no confirmed cases were found.

Photo: HK Gov.

“Concerning the risk of Delta, if it is really so infectious and transmissible, it is really hard to prevent its import and transmission in the local community,” Chuang said, referring to the difficulty in containing the mutant strain in other countries, including in mainland China.

“The best strategy is still vaccination, especially since we have quite effective vaccines at the moment.”

Of the 10 imported coronavirus cases recorded on Friday, eight were travellers coming from the UK, seven of whom carried the L452R mutant strain. The remaining two cases were also carrying the same strain were from Indonesia and Russia. Hong Kong has so far seen a total a total of 160 confirmed cases of the L452R mutated Covid-19 strain, 59 of which were of the highly transmissible Delta variant, Chuang said.

The city has banned all passenger flights from the UK starting Thursday.

Photo: HK Gov.

“We hope Hongkongers will get their vaccines as soon as possible, before the Delta variant spreads in Hong Kong,” she said.

700 jabs at school

Meanwhile, about 700 students, teachers and parents from seven local secondary schools came together on two school campuses to receive Covid-19 vaccine jabs on Friday – the first day of Hong Kong’s school outreach service, a government statement said.

Hong Kong has recorded 11,928 Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and 211 deaths.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.