Jan Yumul, ABS-CBN News
HONG KONG - Hong Kong health authorities said Tuesday they are tracing 10 people who have been exposed to a 32-year-old Filipino domestic worker who tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), now known as Hong Kong's 61st case.
The domestic helper is under the employ of a 67-year-old female patient, Hong Kong's 52nd case, which was confirmed on February 13.
The worker is also a first case in the city and the first Filipino. As at 8 p.m. on February 18, there has been a total of 62 recorded cases in Hong Kong so far.
According to Hong Kong immigration statistics ABS-CBN News obtained on Feb 17, there are 400,121 foreign domestic workers in the city, as of January 2020, and 219,728 are from the Philippines while 170,898 are from Indonesia.
During a press conference held at the Harbour Building in Central, Hong Kong, on February 18, Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, Head of the Communicable Disease Branch, Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health, told reporters that the domestic worker first had a cough and fever on February 2, but did not see a private doctor and instead self medicated and recovered.
The Filipino was transferred to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan where she was admitted for isolation and management by the Centre for Health Protection during its investigation on February 14. Her upper respiratory samples initially tested negative for COVID-19.
On February 15, the Filipino had undergone a CT scan, which found there were some problems with her lungs. Her lung x-ray showed some opacity.
"I understand the helper went to City Hall (in Central) outdoor area, met around 10 friends, and stayed there in the outdoor area with everyone wearing mask for around one hour. They did not have a meal together, but we're trying to contact all her friends to check," said Dr. Chuang.
The Filipino had no travel history during the incubation period and that she did not attend the family dinner of her employers held in North Point on January 26. Her other close contacts, namely her employers (except case 52), and their kids have already been arranged for quarantine earlier on.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Consulate said it sent a team to the hospital to check on the Filipino's condition.
"Actually, in isolation ang ating kababayan pa so they were not able to reach her. Sent word that they will try again tomorrow when circumstances permit," Consul General Raly Tejada told ABS-CBN News in a text.
He also said that the Filipino was not among those who were earlier reported to have been quarantined, and that the Department of Health has not reached out to them for help with contact tracing.
"We will let HK authorities do the contact tracing in accordance with their health protocols," Congen Tejada told ABS-CBN News.
Recently, the Consulate reported that three out of seven Filipinos had been released from quarantine and have returned to work.
The Hospital Authority also announced it was stepping up its enhanced laboratory surveillance program to further advance the identification of COVID-19 infected patients to minimize the risk of community transmissions.
Currently, the program covers all inpatient pneumonia cases and that around 700 to 800 tests were being conducted in public hospitals daily. And that 20 cases, which have no travel nor contact history with confirmed cases, have been identified through the program - about one-third of the confirmed cases.
Authorities said that there were increasing number of cases in the community and that some patients presented with mild symptoms, with many being diagnosed as common upper respiratory infections until their conditions deteriorated.
After prudent consideration of the current capacity of isolation facilities in public hospitals, the HA decided to dovetail with the recommendations of the Scientific Committees of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) to extend the surveillance to outpatients. This, they say, will help detect mild cases in the community and to have a better understanding of the epidemiological situation.
Starting from February 19, Accident and Emergency Department (AED) or General Out-patient Clinic (GOPC) patients aged 18 or above, presented with fever and respiratory symptoms or mild chest infection, will be given a specimen bottle for the collection of deep throat saliva in the early morning of the following day, if hospital admission is considered unnecessary according to clinical assessment. Patients are required to return the specimens to the AED or GOPC for COVID-19 laboratory testing.
"The HA will send the specimen to the Public Health Laboratory Centre (PHLC) of the Department of Health (DH). Patients do not need to stay in hospital to wait for test result. The HA will inform the patient via SMS if the test result is negative to novel coronavirus while the CHP will contact the patient for hospital admission for isolation and other follow-up if the test result is positive."