Flight attendant, more Egypt tour group members test positive for coronavirus

Health officials announced today that six more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in Hong Kong to 127.

Speaking to reporters at a daily afternoon press conference on Wednesday, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said that the six newly confirmed cases include a Cathay Pacific flight attendant and five members of a tour group to Egypt.

The 22-year-old Cathay employee, referred to as case 122, was working on flight CX320 from Madrid to Hong Kong on March 7, and had also visited Amsterdam during the incubation period. The CHP confirmed that the same flight had carried a 19-year-old woman from Dongguan, Guangdong province.

After landing in Hong Kong, that woman then took a taxi from Hong Kong to Shenzhen Bay where she entered the mainland and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

The other five cases — cases 123 to 127 — were part of a tour group to Egypt that has been at the center of a cluster of infections. Chuang confirmed that the tour group had a total of nine people, including the 23-year-old tour guide, who has also tested positive. So far seven of the travelers in the group have contracted the illness.

Case 123 is a 57-year-old male Food and Environmental Hygiene Department worker. He started feeling unwell on Sunday, but still went to work at the Cheung Chau Municipal Building, and attended a meal with his colleagues.

The wife of another FEHD worker who tested positive, and who was also part of the tour group, became a confirmed case as well today, and an elderly couple who live in Laguna City in Lam Tin, both 63, have also tested positive.

Aside from the six new cases, Chuang confirmed that three more people have preliminarily tested positive, and may become confirmed cases later today. They include a 57-year-old woman — who is currently the last person in the Egypt tour group not confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 — a person who flew from London to Hong Kong on Feb. 29 with another person who contracted the virus, and the daughter of a previous case.

Chuang confirmed that the daughter, case 128, tested positive well after the supposed 14-day incubation period, and is the daughter of case 58, an elderly man who lives in Tseung Kwan O.

She was sent to a quarantine center after her father was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, and was let go after the mandated 14-day period. However, she developed diarrhea on Sunday and a runny nose on Monday, and was sent to Caritas Medical Centre. A respiratory sample tested positive today.

Asked how it was possible for case 128 to contract the virus after the widely accepted 14-day incubation period, Chuang said: “I think there are several possibilities we can think of, the first one is both case 58 and his daughter contracted the disease from separate sources in the community, and the other possibility is she got the infection from her father. But because the number of cases in Hong Kong is not too high, so I think the chance is more likely that she caught the infection from her father rather than in the community.”

Chuang added that it’s not unheard-of for some cases to have a slightly longer incubation period, and that on balance, a quarantine period of 14 days, plus 14 days of medical surveillance was sufficient.

“Before we got in here, I saw a TV news [report] that there was a published study that among 100 cases, one of the cases had an incubation period of more than 14 days. So 99 percent of the cases had an incubation within the 14 days.”

She also noted that 128 stayed in a single room at the quarantine center, meaning the likelihood of her having contracted the coronavirus from someone else in quarantine was low.

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