Authorities report 13 new COVID-19 cases, all returnees from Pakistan

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Center for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, addresses media on May 29, 2020. (Photo: Apple Daily live feed)
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Center for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, addresses media on May 29, 2020. (Photo: Apple Daily live feed)

Hong Kong reported 13 new COVID-19 cases Friday, all of them imported cases from Pakistan.

Among the infections are a family cluster of five, which includes a mother and her three kids who went to Pakistan in January to attend a relative’s wedding. None of them experienced symptoms of the disease. Separately, a two-year-old girl and her 24-year-old mother also tested positive.

The number is the highest daily figure in about a month and a half—the last time the city recorded around two dozen new cases was April 10.

All of the confirmed cases were aboard Qatar Airways flight QR818. That 13 among the 70 or 80 passengers on the flight tested positive is “considered quite high,” said Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch.

“But this is within our expectation because we know the epidemic in Pakistan lately has been getting more serious,” she added.

Among the more than 1,100 travelers coming to Hong Kong from Pakistan, about three percent—or 33—have tested positive, Chuang said. Last Thursday, all eight new COVID-19 cases were also imported cases from the south Asian country.

Locally, Hong Kong has been largely successful in flattening its curve even as many parts of the world still struggle to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. The city has seen just over two weeks without a single local infection. The last time authorities recorded a local COVID-19 case was May 14, when the third family member of a cluster in Tsuen Wan was diagnosed with the virus.

Excluding today, just three COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last seven days. They were imported cases from the US, UK and the Netherlands.

Public restrictions have gradually loosened accordingly. Schools, which had been on hiatus since January, began their first phase of reopening on Wednesday with senior high school students returning to class first.

Karaoke lounges, nightclubs, bathhouses and party venues, which closed in March, reopened on Friday. Shopping and business districts have largely returned to their usual bustling states.

And transit services at the airport, which have been suspended since March 25, will gradually resume on June 1.

David Hui, an infectious disease expert and a member on the government’s coronavirus advisory team, said he believes the ban on gatherings larger than eight people—which remains in place until June 4—could be lifted if there are no new local cases in the coming week.

There are now 1,080 COVID-19 infections in the city. Four people have succumbed to the virus.

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