Hong Kong has recorded 614 new, confirmed Covid-19 cases as of Monday – a new record. Another 600-odd cases have tested preliminary positive, the city’s health authority has said.

staff register people for covid-19 test lei tung
Staff register people for a Covid-19 test in Lei Tung, Sha Tin, last week. File Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP

Edwin Tsui, director of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) announced on Monday that the government will begin redeploying Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre for Covid-19 patients from Tuesday.

The Hospital Authority will send medical officers to Lantau’s Penny’s Bay and reserve hospital bed spaces for patients in a more serious condition. The facility will only receive patients of lower risk depending on a number of factors, said Larry Lee, chief manager of the Hospital Authority.

Penny's Bay Covid-19 quarantine centre on Lantau
Penny’s Bay Covid-19 quarantine centre on Lantau. File photo: GovHK.

Seven of Monday’s 614 cases were imported, 150 of the cases were linked to other, earlier cases, while the source of infections for the remaining cases were under investigation, Chuang Shuk-kwan of the CHP said. Of the 342 new cases announced on Sunday, the origins of the infection for 219 remain unknown.

Tsui said that some of the cases confirmed on Monday were a result of people congregating for social gatherings during the Lunar New Year festive period, adding that the situation was “not optimistic” as there will soon be a shortage of hospital beds. He urged residents to keep up with hand hygiene and avoid gatherings.

Chuang said that many of the cases of unknown origins were people working in professions that are in frequent contact with members of the public, such as cleaners and security guards.

Testing at Hing Ping House
Testing at Hing Ping House, Tuen Mun, last week. File Photo GovHK.

Meanwhile, public hospitals have seen one doctor, eight nurses and eight assistants or clerks contracting Covid-19 as a result of exposure in their households or communities, Lee said.

They worked in full personal protective equipment at work but some had shared meals with colleagues with their masks off, he said, leading to about 20 hospital employees declared as their close-contacts – all will be placed under quarantine. Around a dozen patients were also considered close contacts.

As the fifth wave surges, the government will remove details about each patient from the online data table released alongside daily Covid-19 announcements, Chuang said. The tables include information such as the approximate address of patients. “There isn’t much point” to continue doing so, she said. However, buildings placed under mandatory testing orders will be made public as usual.

Home quarantine for close contacts

Close contacts will undergo quarantine at home, as long as their household is under suitable conditions, starting Tuesday. Whether bathrooms or kitchens are shared with others in the household will be considered, Tsui said.

Staff from the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) will visit these individuals at their homes to help them put on a tracking wristbands.

tracking wristbands home quarantine
The Hong Kong government had asked home quarantine persons to wear an electronic tracking wristband.File Photo: RTHK screenshot.

As of Monday, the city has confirmed 16,022 positive Covid-19 cases, while the number of deaths stands at 213.

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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.