Covid-19 killed three more elderly patients in Hong Kong and another 69 new cases were confirmed on Monday, including a doctor who visited 10 care homes and four domestic workers who shared accommodation, as the government said social-distancing measures would be extended for another week.
Monday marked the eighth straight day the daily count of new infections had fallen below 100. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 4,148, with 55 related deaths.
All but two of the new cases were locally transmitted, while 22 had no known source.
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Speaking at a press conference, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, said four more helpers had been infected.
She said all of them had lived with a previously infected Indonesian maid in July in a flat managed by the APIK Employment Agency in Sheung Wan’s Kin On Commercial Building.
Chuang said two of them had stayed in Tuen Mun for a few days to help someone move flats, while the other patient went to live in the home of a friend’s employer in Hang Hau. Contact tracing would be conducted, she added.
In another alarming development, Chuang said a private doctor who had been to 10 care homes to make regular medical visits and check-ups was among the latest confirmed cases.
I think he [wore] necessary personal protective equipment and [followed] infection control measures. If that is the case, the chance of spread in the residential care homes [is] not high
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan on a local doctor confirmed to have Covid-19
The 78-year-old, who fell ill last Wednesday, had visited two homes for the disabled run by St James’ Settlement Rehabilitation Services – the Blissful Residence and Cheerful Residence – located on the fifth and sixth floors of a building in Kwun Tong. His visits occurred while he was still infectious.
During the incubation period of his disease, he also visited eight homes for the elderly, including Kai King Home of Aged in Sha Tin and Cornwall Elderly’s Home in Tai Po on July 22, and Chung Tao Elderly Centre in Kwai Chung and Loc Shun Elderly Home Limited in Sham Shui Po on July 24.
The doctor wore masks on his visits and all residents and staff would be tested, Chuang said.
“I think he [wore] necessary personal protective equipment and [followed] infection control measures. If that is the case, the chance of spread in the residential care homes [is] not high,” she said.
Meanwhile, a 58-year-old man who works at the Kwai Chung Container Terminal was confirmed as infected, taking the number of cases linked there to eight.
Two infections were also linked to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, while three were recorded at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan.
More than 20 people also tested preliminary positive on Monday, pending confirmation.
Among them was a 31-year-old nurse at Caritas Medical Centre in Cheung Sha Wan who did not come in contact with any Covid-19 patients over the past 2 weeks. She most recently worked on Saturday.
A 46-year-old outsourced worker who was responsible for washing and disinfecting hospital patients’ clothes also tested preliminary positive.
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The Hospital Authority said the clothes were in plastic bags and those from Covid-19 patients were separated from others, but added it would re-examine its procedures following the infection.
The latest fatalities, all men, aged 85, 86 and 94, died at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan, Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, and Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, respectively.
The 86-year-old, who suffered from chronic illness, was linked to the infection cluster at Cornwall Elderly’s Home (Golden Branch) in Tuen Mun, which now has 40 cases and eight deaths, a mortality rate of 20 per cent.
Kong Tai Care for the Aged Centre Limited has the highest number of cases among care homes, with 46 and nine fatalities, a death rate of 19.6 per cent.
Separately, a Siberian husky that lived with its owner in Wan Chai became the tenth pet in the city to test positive for Covid-19. Its owner was a close contact of a confirmed case.
Hong Kong reported the world’s first known case of Covid-19 infection in a pet in late February.
On Monday, the government also revealed it would extend existing social-distancing measures, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people, and mandatory mask-wearing in public places, until August 18.
“Although the numbers are decreasing, the actual number of cases are still very high, with many unknown cases, so there [is] definitely a lot of silent transmission in the community. I don’t think there is any place for relaxation at the moment,” Chuang said.
Fourteen types of establishments, including bars, gyms and sports facilities, would remain closed, while the ban on dine-in services at the city’s restaurants from 6pm until 5am is expected to be continued.
During the day, no more than two people can dine at the same table, and restaurants can only operate at half capacity.
Separately, the Transport Department announced that, starting on Tuesday, it would expand its free, voluntary testing scheme for taxi and public light bus drivers to cover employees of ferry operators the MTR Corporation Limited and Hong Kong Tramways Limited.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee, meanwhile, revealed the government expected as many as 5 million people to take part in the upcoming voluntary coronavirus testing programme.
While specific details for the testing have yet to be finalised, those wishing to take part would have to register first, she said.
“We are still deciding on the exact process of the testing plan, but those who want to get tested will have to register first,” Chan told a radio show, adding that the city’s Innovation and Technology Bureau would help set up the registration system.
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