Tsing Yi apartment block flats evacuated after second resident tests positive for coronavirus

Centre for Health Protection personnel at Hong Mei House in Tsing Yi. Screengrab via Facebook/RTHK.
Centre for Health Protection personnel at Hong Mei House in Tsing Yi. Screengrab via Facebook/RTHK.

Health officials have evacuated dozens of households from an apartment block in Tsing Yi in the early hours of Tuesday morning after two people who lived there were diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus.

Word of the evacuations came just hours after the Centre For Health Protection confirmed that the number of confirmed cases had jumped to 42, up from the 38 cases confirmed at a Monday afternoon press conference.

Among the four newly confirmed cases was a 62-year-old woman who lives at Hong Mei House at the Cheung Hong Estate in Tsing Yi. The CHP noted that she lived 10 storeys directly below the flat of a 75-year-old man who was the 12th person to test positive for the virus. Both flats shared the same number — 7.

At an early-morning press briefing on Tuesday, health officials said that people living in flat number 7 on all 35-storeys of the building will be evacuated and sent to quarantine centers as a precaution. At a press conference later Tuesday morning, officials said that four of those evacuated were displaying symptoms of coronavirus, but had not yet tested positive.

At the earlier presser, CHP controller Wong Ka-hing said it wasn’t clear how the virus had spread.

“It could still be the usual droplet transmission or contact transmission, but there is the environmental factor, which is somehow unique in these two cases as they live in the same building,” Wong said.

The news immediately rekindled fears of the Amoy Gardens case cluster during the 2003 SARS outbreak. The private housing estate in Jordan, Kowloon, saw 321 people infected with the virus, of whom 42 died, thanks to a faulty arrangement and design of pipes and drains, specifically the U-bend pipes, that helped the disease spread through the block.

Officials, however, say that Hong Mei House’s water pipes, including the U-bend pipes, are in good condition, and University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung reassured reporters the case was not another Amoy Gardens.

Housing Department engineers will inspect toilets in the flats today.

The other confirmed coronavirus cases include one more family member — a 52-year-old man — who attended a hotpot party in Kwun Tong that is believed to have seen 10 others infected.

CHP also confirmed that the 63-year-old wife and 86-year-old mother-in-law of a man from Sai Wan Ho who was confirmed positive yesterday were also diagnosed with the virus.

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