HK 4th wave: Health chiefs warn of potentially ‘explosive outbreak’ of COVID-19, as 101 new cases confirmed

Victor Ting , Chris Lau and Lilian Cheng, South China Morning Post

Posted at Dec 05 2020 10:22 PM

People wear masks following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China on Dec. 1, 2020. Tyrone Siu, Reuters

Hong Kong could face an “explosive outbreak” soon if Covid-19 cases and untraceable infections remained high, a health official warned, as 101 new coronavirus cases were confirmed on Saturday, the fourth time this week a triple-digit number was logged.

The Post understands that Sunny Chai Ngai-chiu, chairman of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, a publicly owned tech hub, was among those infected, but authorities would only say an employee of the group was confirmed as having the coronavirus.

Infection clusters at dance clubs, care homes, a construction site and a private hospital continued to expand, while untraceable infections remained high, at 29 cases. Thirty-six infections of unknown origin were recorded on Friday, the highest since the city’s fourth wave started last month.

“The current state of the pandemic in Hong Kong, I can say, is very serious,” Dr Albert Au, from the Centre of Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, told a regular Covid-19 press briefing.

Referring to the rise in overall and untraceable infections, he added: “If the situation continues, at some point we may encounter an explosive outbreak in the near future.”

The latest figures pushed the city’s infection tally to 6,802, with 112 related deaths. About 50 people tested preliminary-positive for the virus on Saturday.

Among the 63 cases linked to previous infections, 18 related to a “super-spreader” cluster involving dance and singing venues across the city, taking the overall number of patients in the group to 625.

Six more cases were recorded at Ho Yuk Ching Willow Lodge, a care facility for the elderly in Tai Kok Tsui, taking patients there to 10, while two more infections were added to Fong Shu Chuen Day Activity Centre and Hostel, a facility in Shau Kei Wan for the intellectually disabled that now has 57 infections in total.

A cluster at a construction site at Lohas Park in Tseung Kwan O also grew by three to 34 cases, while one more infection was recorded at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, which recently saw an outbreak involving one elderly patient dying and staff members infected.

A nurse at Dr Fok Lai-sing’s private clinic in Whampoa and a pupil at Munsang College in Kowloon City were also among confirmed cases. Nine infections were imported, involving overseas travellers, aircrew members and a domestic worker.

The Hospital Authority, meanwhile, urged residents to be patient and cooperate with medical professionals at health facilities, following an incident at St John Hospital in Cheung Chau on Thursday. A resident had poured deep throat saliva samples on a desk in a nurse’s room after being told the deposit time for the day was over.

A nurse at the desk had worn protective equipment, but would still undergo tests and medical surveillance for safety, the authority said.

“We express deep regret over that resident’s disregard of the public good, and hope residents can cooperate with medics’ arrangements and protect public health,” Dr Lau Ka-hin, a chief manager at the authority, said.

Earlier on Saturday, Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai warned there would be increased cross-departmental inspections in the coming weeks in areas where people might gather.

Stiffer fixed fines of HK$5,000, up from HK$2,000, take effect next Friday and apply to violations of the two-person rule on public gatherings, compulsory wearing of masks and mandatory testing orders.

“The increase in penalties is aimed at strengthening the public’s awareness. Relevant departments have not slowed down or reduced inspections, but they will typically warn first before issuing tickets,” Tsui said.

Among cases revealed on Friday were four people who attended concerts by popular Canto-pop singer Hins Cheung King-hin at the Hong Kong Coliseum on different days, sparking concerns of a possible spread at the venue.

Tsui told a local radio programme that no transmission chain had yet been discovered from the concerts, but workers involved in the events, including from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, would receive virus tests. “If there are more confirmed cases, relevant preventive measures will be tightened if necessary,” he said.

Separately, rail operator the MTR Corporation announced that it would not provide an overnight service on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and would adjust train frequencies on the Kwun Tong and Island lines on Saturdays from next week, in view of the Covid-19 situation and passenger numbers.

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