HK Covid-19 cases approach 200 after largest one-day increase

March 19, 2020 12:28
Passengers wear protective suits at the Hong Kong airport on Tuesday amid the coronavirus outbreak. Authorities have stepped up vigilance amid a rise in the number of imported Covid-19 cases. Photo: Reuters

Twenty-five people tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong to 192, plus one probable case.

The increase marked the largest single-day spike in the city since the outbreak, as per official data.

Twelve of the newly added cases were imported while 10 of the rest were possible local infection, according to the Department of Health’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP).

All of those 22 patients had travel history either during incubation or infectious period. 

As for the other three cases, it is not known where the infections may have occurred.

Given the jump in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, the Hospital Authority expressed worries that the continuing increase of quarantined people will push the occupancy rates of beds in public hospitals to near a saturation point.

The authority is also concerned that if more of those people who are set to return to Hong Kong in the coming days from overseas test positive for Covid-19, it will put further burden on healthcare services, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Dr. Linda Yu Wai-ling, the Hospital Authority's chief manager for clinical effectiveness and technology, said the number of returned Hong Kong travelers who were found infected with Covid-19 totaled 80 over two weeks as of Sunday, but that number doubled to take the total to more than 160 by Tuesday.

Yu noted that the average occupancy rate of isolation beds in public hospital currently stands at 67.5 percent, which is considered to be a bit close to saturation.

Given the situation, general wards will be transformed to isolation wards if necessary, she said.

Of the newly confirmed 25 patients on Wednesday, one is Lee Chun-ho, a Hong Kong karate athlete.

The 28-year-old, who became the 172nd case, said in a post on his Facebook page that pulling through from the disease is only a small battle for him, and that he hopes Hongkongers can overcome the pandemic soon.

Among other new patients, the 182nd case involved a 50-year-old woman who works as a clerk at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong.

The lady was said to have made trips to Lan Kwai Fong in Central quite often to meet up with friends during the incubation period, so the CHP is now launching contact tracing.

The school where she works, meanwhile, claimed that the infected employee’s job seldom required her to have contact with students.

Still, the campus was closed and thorough disinfection was done after news broke that she was a confirmed patient.

Two of the newly added cases involved students who returned to Hong Kong from the United Kingdom, where they are enrolled in some academic institutions there.

Asked by media if it is feasible to have all returning students put in one place first and then arrange for them to take rapid tests for Covid-19, Dr. Wong Ka-hing, the CHP controller, pointed out although the most ideal way to conduct such action is to put them in quarantine centers, there are not enough quarantine centers in the city to accommodate all the returning youth, who could number in the tens of thousands.

As such, authorities can only resort to the second best way, which is ordering them to undergo home quarantine, Wong said.

Dr. Lam Ching-choi, a member of Hong Kong's Executive Council, told a radio program Thursday morning that the government may take into account overseas experience and use hotels to quarantine the home-returning students.

However, Wong revealed that the government had, early on during the crisis, attempted to talk the idea over with hotel operators, but met with lukewarm response.

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