HK’s third-wave coronavirus infection likely to be contained in a week: expert

By Zhang Hui Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/10 21:23:40

Pedestrians on the street of Hong Kong's financial district Photo: cnsphoto

It's inevitable for international cities like Hong Kong to witness occasional coronavirus outbreaks, and the latest outbreak in the city is likely to be contained in a week, Hong Kong medical experts said, after the city was hit by a third wave of COVID-19 this week that ended no new cases for 21 days. 

Hong Kong reported 38 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 32 locally transmitted infections, after the city reported 42 cases on Thursday, the highest number in a single day this week. 

On Thursday, Hong Kong also reported eight imported cases, with five of them coming from Kazakhstan, the country which has reported pneumonia of an unknown source that local media said has a "much higher" fatality rate than COVID-19.

Hong Kong's locally transmitted infections were linked to a nursing home in Tse Wan Shan, two restaurants in Ping Shek Estate and Jordan, taxi drivers and some schools. The source of the outbreak has not been determined. 

To contain the worsening situation, Hong Kong's education authority announced on Friday that secondary and primary schools and kindergartens will begin summer vacation next Monday, half a month earlier than previous years. 

A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau described the detection of local cases with unknown sources of infection over a short period of time "raising an important alarm," and reminded residents not to let their guard down, the Hong Kong government said.

Hong Kong medical experts said it's normal for the city to experience occasional small-scale outbreaks, as the city has gradually restarted social and business activities, and the outbreak is likely to be contained in a week. 

Jin Dongyan, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Friday that Hong Kong has been hit by a third wave of coronavirus, after the Wuhan outbreak and spike in imported cases. But such a small-scale outbreak was normal and within expectations. 

As an international city, an occasional spike in COVID-19 cases in cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore is inevitable, Jin said.

As for the risk of imported cases, Jin said that if the COVID-19 cases in Kazakhstan continue to dramatically increase, the Hong Kong authority may impose stricter measures to visitors who have gone to Kazakhstan before entering Hong Kong, such as mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

He noted that Chinese people returning from Kazakhstan have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but there have been no cases of the unknown pneumonia.  

The third wave in Hong Kong probably started a week earlier, but will not last long - although the virus source was still under investigation, Jin said. He believes Hong Kong may see a dozen COVID-19 cases for a week before subsiding.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Facebook late Thursday that Hong Kong has witnessed a dramatic change in coronavirus cases, and has recorded infections in a nursing home for the first time. She said the government must respond quickly. 

Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee introduced a series of measures to contain the worsening situation this week, which included managing the flow of people returning from high-risk areas such as India and Pakistan, requiring sea crew members to take a virus test before flying to Hong Kong, and saliva samples from crew members after arriving in Hong Kong. 

Chan also unveiled social-distancing measures on Thursday, including restricting the seating capacity at restaurants and other venues starting Saturday. 

Jin said Hong Kong needs to further expand its COVID-19 testing. 

Stanley Ng Chau-pei, the president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, proposed on Friday that the Hong Kong government collect samples and send them to the Chinese mainland for testing, or Chinese mainland send medical teams to Hong Kong for testing so that Hong Kong could achieve citywide testing.


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