Hong Kong has reported 342 confirmed Covid-19 infections on Sunday – the second consecutive day with over 300 new cases. As the fifth wave escalates, 1,921 confirmed cases have been detected over the last seven days and more than 320 accumulated cases are of unknown origins, health officials said.

Over 80 per cent of the untraceable cases were carrying the highly infectious but less lethal Omicron variant. The city also detected more than 300 preliminary positive cases on Sunday.

Government implementing lockdowns and compulsory testing in Sha Tin. Photo: GovHK.

Speaking at Sunday’s pandemic briefing, the Head of the Centre of Health Protection’s Communicable Disease Branch Chuang Shuk-kwan said infections were mainly found in Sham Shui Po, Sha Tin, Wong Tai Sin, Yau Tsim Mong, Tuen Mun and Kowloon City districts.

Director of Health Ronald Lam said at the same press event that the coronavirus had been affecting all districts, across communities of different income levels.

“This time, the fifth wave of pandemic is an unprecedented extent, and it will be the largest blow to our anti-epidemic systems,” Lam said.

Chuang said many patients had attended multiple meal gatherings during the Lunar New Year holidays and some had visited crowded places such as Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island and Che Kung Temple at Sha Tin. Chuang said she was “very worried” about possible transmission.

Government implementing lockdowns and compulsory testing in Sha Tin. Photo: GovHK.

As local clusters in different areas of Hong Kong continued to spread, citizens were seen queuing up outside Covid-19 test centres with local media reporting that some had waited for up to three hours.

When asked about the scenes of packed sports grounds and corridors witnessed in Sha Tin while residents awaited tests, respiratory disease expert David Hui told Ming Pao that – although newly-detected cases may not be directly related to long lines – queuing nonetheless increases the risk of transmission.

However, health officers attending Sunday’s briefing did not directly answer reporters’ questions about infection risks among those queueing.

Cases at more care facilities

Infections have been found at three more elderly or disabled caring residences, Chuang also reported, adding that some residents and staff will be sent to quarantine.

According to Chuang, a 93-year-old female resident at Ever Happy Aged Home in Sham Shui Po was confirmed positive, and some 30 elderly people living there were required to undergo quarantine, together with seven staff. The patient had not received a Covid-19 vaccination.

Chuang Shuk-kwan. Photo: Screenshot, via RTHK.

A caretaker at The Salvation Army Po Lam Residence for Senior Citizens was also confirmed to be infected – more than 40 residents who were in the staff member’s scope of service will be quarantined.

Two positive and two preliminary positive cases were also found at Ho Man Tin’s SAHK in LOHAS Garden – a rehabilitation service centre for disabled people. The patients included kitchen and nursing staff. People on the ground, first and third floors will be sent to quarantine.

In all, as of Sunday, health authorities have detected Covid-19 cases at 10 elderly caring homes or rehabilitation facilities.

1 critical, 1 serious

Meanwhile, one hospitalised Covid-19 patient has entered a critical condition, whilst another is in a serious condition.

According to Lau Ka-hin, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for quality and standards, a 77-year-old female who was sent to an intensive care unit last Tuesday remains in a critical condition with the Delta variant. The unvaccinated woman also suffers from diabetes and hyperlipidemia.

Hospital Authority. File photo: HKFP.

The other patient was an 84-year-old male, also infected with Delta. According to Lau, the patient was not vaccinated and his symptoms were mild when when he was hospitalised last Thursday. However, his condition worsened rapidly on Sunday.

The 84-year-old was already put in intensive care units. As he was at a high age and has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, Lau said there were “dangerous factors for risk of complications and death.”

Aims still ‘achievable’

When asked whether the government’s contact-tracing approach would be sustainable in the face of hundreds of untraceable transmissions, Lam said it was still “the most effective tool” to “prevent or delay” ongoing transmission.

“It is essential and critical that we continue to maintain the containment policy, especially using the most effective tools of contact-tracing, quarantine, and also sending those detected cases for treatment in hospitals.”

Ronald Lam. Photo: Screenshot, via RTHK.

Lam said the authorities “hope” that contact tracing measures coupled with compulsory and voluntary tests “could at least delay the transmission chains.” He added that the aim is to “buy time” for boosting vaccination coverage and protecting public health care services from collapse.

The objectives of the containment policy are still “achievable,” Lam said, as long as the government keeps up its measures and citizens are willing to cooperate.

As of Sunday, the city has confirmed 15,414 positive Covid-19 cases, while the number of deaths stands at 213.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.