Hong Kong’s 23-day streak without any new local COVID-19 infections has ended after a local woman and her granddaughter tested positive for the virus, while a third patient has been confirmed as a new imported case. However, the city’s more relaxed social distancing measures — which came into force last Friday — are staying in place for the time being.
During today’s coronavirus briefing, Undersecretary for Food and Health Dr Chui Tak-yi said, “As this is the first instance of a locally transmitted case in over 20 days, the Food and Health Bureau is paying close attention to the situation. We are conducting thorough epidemiological surveys and contact tracing in response to these new cases.”
Chui called the fight against COVID-19 a “long war”, during which there would be “a lot of developments”, citing recent local clusters in Seoul and Jilin. Chui said it was “impossible to completely rule out” the risk of similar clusters emerging in Hong Kong and urged people “not to let their guards down” in regards to social distancing and hygiene.
Currently, Chui says that the government does not see a need to tighten up social distancing measures again, though he noted that restrictions will continue to be reviewed depending on any new developments in local cases.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Center for Health Protection confirmed earlier reports that a 66-year-old woman residing at Lei Muk Shue Estate in Tsuen Wan with no travel history had tested positive for the virus. The woman, who is Case 1049, developed a fever last Friday and rested at home over the weekend.
On Monday, she went to a general outpatient clinic in Kwai Chung and was given a jar to put her deep saliva sample in. She submitted her sample yesterday morning, and was confirmed to have the virus yesterday night. Chuang said that the woman was a housewife whose daily activities consisted of going to the market to purchase groceries in the morning and caring for her 5-year-old granddaughter for the rest of the day.
Case 1049 has eight close familial contacts split across two residences, including her husband, her son, her daughter-in-law, her granddaughter, and her grandson. Seven out of her eight close contacts were found to have mild symptoms and gave deep saliva samples. So far, six of the tests have come back negative, while one person — the five-year-old girl — has tested positive for COVID-19. She is Case 1050.
Chuang said that Case 1049’s circle of contacts is considered to be “quite small” and her movements are mostly limited to her own residence and her son’s residence. However, because of the community’s concern over a local cluster, Chuang said that the CHP would provide jars for saliva samples to residents within the affected buildings, as well as to any workers from the market stalls that Case 1049 frequented, in an attempt to determine the source of the infection.
Case 1050, the 5-year-old girl, first began showing symptoms on Monday, when she developed a cough. Besides her regular visits to her paternal grandmother’s home, she has also attended weekly tutoring sessions in Tsuen Wan. Chuang said that the CHP did not consider the staff and students at the tutoring center to be close contacts, but those who were at the center at the same time as the girl will be given sample jars for testing. Since Saturday, the girl has been staying at her maternal grandmother’s home. During a group dinner on Sunday, she came into contact with more than 10 people, who will also be tested for the virus.
Case 1051 involves a 34-year-old Hong Kong resident who was in Pakistan from March 12 until last Friday. The man, who was traveling alone, was visiting relatives in Pakistan. According to the patient, none of his families exhibited any symptoms of COVID-19, and he did not come into contact with any known patients. He landed in Hong Kong on Saturday after taking flight QR818 from Qatar. Upon his arrival, the man gave a deep throat saliva sample at the AsiaWorld-Expo testing center, which came back negative. He was sent to a quarantine center, but developed a fever yesterday and was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. A second test for the virus came back positive today. Chuang said that the man was quarantining alone and does not have any close contacts.
Starting from Friday, the CHP will also set up free testing stations at Hong Kong International Airport, where they will distribute up to 500 sample jars a day to airport workers who wish to be tested.
“These airport workers are often coming into contact with high-risk individuals who are returning to Hong Kong from abroad. Through increased testing, we hope to catch any potential cases in the early stages and reduce the risk of the infection spreading into the local community,” Chuang said.
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