New Covid-19 cases traced to visits to Lan Kwai Fong gym, bars

March 20, 2020 12:36
Two of the newly confirmed Covid-19 patients had visited a branch of Pure Fitness gym in Lan Kwai Fong in Central. Photo: HKEJ

Lan Kwai Fong, a popular nightlife destination in Central, is emerging as a potential coronavirus hotspot after several people were found to have visited the area before they were confirmed to have contracted the flu-like disease.

Health authorities raised the concern after the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) reported that 16 people, 11 men and five women, tested positive for Covid-19 infection, as of 4 p.m. on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong to 208, plus one probable case.

Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the CHP’s Communicable Disease Branch, told a daily briefing on Thursday that two of the newly confirmed male patients (the 195th and 199th cases), both 29, had visited the Lan Kwai Fong branch of Pure Fitness, a well-known gym operator in the city, before they developed fever on Monday and Tuesday respectively, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

While the 199th patient had been to Singapore between March 6 and 9, Chuang believed he could have contracted the disease locally as the outbreak in the Southeast Asian country is not that serious.

When people work out in a gym, they may leave some of their secretions on the equipment and cause contamination to the environment, Chuang said. She advised gym users to clean such  equipment before using them.

Besides the two, Chuang said, the 182nd, 191st and 192nd cases, as well as another one that preliminarily tested positive for Covid-19, also involved people who had patronized restaurants and bars in Lan Kwai Fong, although it is not certain yet whether they had transmitted the virus to others.

Data from the CHP showed that the 182nd and 192nd confirmed patients had been to 73 Wyndham Street on March 7.  

Chuang warned that because people in restaurants and bars normally do not wear face masks and tend to engage in long conversations, going to such establishments may now be considered a high-risk activity.

The CHP again urged members of the public to practice social distancing as far as possible. They should go out less often and avoid social activities such as group meals and other gatherings to reduce the chances of coming into contact with infected persons, who may not present any symptoms, and minimize the risk of outbreak clusters emerging in the community, according to a government press release.

Travel history

Chuang also told media that a 54-year-old male civil servant whose place of work is on Java Road in North Point preliminarily tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.

It was learned that the man is a staff member of the Planning Department.

Of the 16 newly confirmed patients, 14 had recent travel history during the incubation and infectious period. Among them is a 32-year-old pregnant woman (207th case), who visited Australia, Italy, Germany and Dubai between Jan. 24 and March 16.

Talking about the city's first Covid-19 infection case involving a pregnant woman, Dr. Linda Yu Wai-ling, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for clinical effectiveness and technology, said there is currently no data to say that a mother can pass the virus to her unborn child, but the chance of premature birth exists.

Pure Fitness said it has decided to close its three branches – at California Tower in Lan Kwai Fong, Kinwick Centre on Hollywood Road, and ICBC Tower on 3 Graden Road in Central – for two weeks, and offer members a 14-day temporary suspension of membership without charges, following discontent expressed by many of its members on its Facebook page earlier in the day. 

“In light of the two confirmed cases of Covid-19 … we have made the decision to close these centres with immediate effect, reopening on April 3, in line with the Centre for Health Protection's guidance regarding an incubation period of up to 14 days,” RTHK quoted the company as saying in a statement. It also pledged to disinfect the facilities.

Dog tests positive

In another development, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) on Thursday said a pet dog sent to the AFCD has repeatedly tested positive for Covid-19, making it the second such case after a 17-year-old Pomeranian owned by a coronavirus patient tested "weak positive" for the disease.

The new case involves a German Shepherd that is owned by a confirmed Covid-19 patient (163rd case) who lives in Pok Fu Lam.

The dog was sent for quarantine with another mixed-breed dog from the same residence to the animal keeping facility at the Hong Kong Port of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge on Wednesday.

No positive results were obtained from the mixed breed dog and neither dog has shown any signs of the disease.

The AFCD spokesman reminded pet owners to adopt good hygiene practices, including hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing them, and to maintain a clean and hygienic household environment.

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