Hong Kong recorded another eight Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, all with traceable sources of infection.
The Centre for Health Protection said all but one were imported, with the local case involving a 66-year-old male resident at the Home of Treasure disabled care facility in Kwai Chung, which had already recorded 19 related cases.
The imported infections were two aircrew members from Ethiopia and the United States, one domestic worker from the Philippines, three people from Belgium, and one from India.
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New cases in the city have been on a downward trend over the past week, although the daily tally has been fluctuating between single and double digits.
As of Wednesday, 5,269 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the city, with 105 related deaths.
In a relaxation of social-distancing rules, the government on Tuesday revealed that local tour groups of up to 30 people would be permitted, and that as many as 50 people would be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies – up from 20 – provided no food or drink was served.
The new arrangements come into effect on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Medical Association on Wednesday issued a clarification regarding an accusation by the Centre for Health Protection that a private doctor had failed on Sunday to arrange a Covid-19 test for a 32-year-old woman who was later found to be the city’s sole local case on Tuesday.
The association said that after looking into the matter, they found the doctor did make a referral for the patient to receive a test at a public accident and emergency department, after noting that clinics under the health department did not collect specimens for virus testing on Sunday.
“What was done by the doctor was appropriate after considering various factors. He should not be criticised publicly,” the association stated.
Separately, a written reply from health minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee to lawmakers on Wednesday revealed that the Department of Health’s expenditure for flu vaccines this year had more than doubled, from around HK$40.8 million last year to HK$83 million this year, despite only a modest uptick in doses.
Explaining the spike, the department said: “According to the vaccine manufacturers, the price increase is a result of increased demand for seasonal influenza vaccine across the globe due to Covid-19 as well as increased cost and difficulties in production and shipment under the social distancing measures.”
The massive jump in cost came in spite of the department’s decision this year not to purchase nasal spray flu vaccines, which can cost around twice as much as injections.
Last year the government bought 1,700 doses of the spray variety as part of its total purchase of 815,000 flu vaccine doses.
Some pharmacists and doctors had advocated for using the nasal spray vaccines, saying they were more acceptable to children, but the department on Wednesday said they had not been procured this year after last year’s experience suggested the uptake among kids for both types of vaccine was similar.
This year, the government has purchased 878,000 doses of flu vaccine, 63,000 more than in 2019.
But even so, doctors this week said they were already experiencing shortages amid surging demand, with the head of the city’s Doctors Union saying as many as 30,000 more doses could be needed.
Various government flu vaccination schemes kicked off this month ahead of the winter flu season, which usually starts in January.
Around 450 primary schools and 760 kindergartens have joined the school outreach flu vaccination programme, a free arrangement by the health department.
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