After weeks of keeping a relatively tight lid on new infections as countries around the world saw coronavirus cases skyrocket, health officials today warned that Hong Kong may be in the midst of a “second wave” of COVID-19 infections after it was revealed that almost all of today’s seven new cases are believed to have been infected while traveling outside the SAR.
Speaking to reporters at a daily afternoon press briefing, Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said: “This is understandable given that there are COVID-19 infections all over the world, so those who are returning to Hong Kong after traveling overseas have relatively more confirmed cases among them.
“Yes, you can consider it a second wave of infections, as there’ll be more students and travelers on business trips returning to Hong Kong,” she added.
Chuang reiterated the official advice for all Hongkongers to avoid non-essential travel, saying “if you can please avoid traveling overseas, and when everyone has returned, we may then have less people flow with other countries and we may see the number of cases falling again. Our worry is we may not be able to track down or identify all cases.”
Chuang added that seven more people, aged 30 to 73, have contracted the new coronavirus, and that most of them had traveled abroad during the 14-day incubation period.
The newly-confirmed cases include a 37-year-old man who went on a business trip to the Netherlands, a 42-year-old woman who had flown to Germany and Austria, a 59-year-old man who had visited Austria and Switzerland, a 24-year-old woman who went to Japan, and a 73-year-old man who went to Egypt with a 25-member tour group.
Chuang also confirmed that a 30-year-old man from West Africa was also among the confirmed cases. He had recently visited Dubai, but returned to Hong Kong and stayed in a hotel in the crowded Chungking Mansions, and even visited Kowloon Mosque for prayers on Friday for about 15 minutes.
The only person among the new cases who hadn’t traveled was a 58-year-old driver, though he is believed to have contracted COVID-19 from his employer, the 24-year-old who went to Hokkaido.
Chuang also noted that two women who went skiing in Vancouver have since preliminarily tested positive. One is a 41-year-old doctor who works at Eastern Hospital, though she hasn’t been back to work since returning from her holiday.
The latest cases come amid reports in local media that Hongkongers abroad are in a mad dash to catch flights back to the SAR, despite a mandatory 14-day quarantine on travelers returning to Hong Kong from some parts of the world.
Over the weekend, authorities put more countries on the red outbound travel alert, including the U.S., the U.K., and most of Western Europe.
RTHK reported that some parents with children studying in the U.K. have been scrambling to get their children on flights back home before Thursday, when all travelers entering the SAR from the U.K. will be forced to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.