Covid-19 case tally at 453; music band-linked cluster in focus

March 27, 2020 12:26
A person walks past an almost empty pub area at Lan Kwai Fong  in Hong Kong on March 20 amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Reuters

Forty-three people tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Thursday, taking the total number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in Hong Kong to 453, plus one probable case, as per an update provided by authorities.

Among the newly confirmed patients, comprising 18 males and 25 females, 29 had travel history during the incubation period, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said. The victims' ages ranged from 18 to 78.

Eleven of the new patients had links to music bands that performed at bars in Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui.

With the fresh cases, the infections associated with that entertainment cluster have now reached 23, topping a previously detected cluster that was connected to a Buddhist temple located in a residential building in North Point.

Without disclosing the identities of the music bands, the CHP said the groups mainly performed at four bars, namely Insomnia in LKF, Dusk Till Dawn and Centre Stage in Wan Chai and All Night Long in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Revealing that the four bars are managed by the same company, Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the CHP’s Communicable Disease Branch, told a daily briefing that there were a total of nine bands under the company and one of them had seen eight of its members get infected with Covid-19 earlier.

Four people from the rest of the bands, three employees of the bars and four customers who patronized the bars tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday, Chuang said.

Data from the Department of Health show the company provides a residence for its employees, and some band members and staff live in the same accommodation. As such, all of its 124 employees have been listed as close contacts and sent to the government’s quarantine centers.

Of the four infected customers, one was confirmed to be a 22-year-old a female police officer who lives in a building on Lai Chi Kok Road.

The officer, according to Chuang, went to the All Night Long bar with a colleague on March 20.

Dr. Sara Ho Yuen-ha, chief manager for patient safety and risk management at the Hospital Authority, said the police officer was admitted with fever symptoms to Caritas Medical Centre.

A chest scan on the female cop did not show signs of pneumonia, and she had no travel history. As she also reported that she had no known virus contacts, so she was only arranged into a regular ward, Ho said.

However, it was found that during the incubation period, she participated in the police’s shooting training, had a afternoon-tea gathering with three of her friends and worked until Tuesday.

The CHP is now working with the police to trace the officer's close contacts.

According to the police, the officer, while on duty on Tuesday, felt unwell and hence was not involved in any frontline duties that required interaction with members of the public.

Asked if tracing all the people who had patronized the four bars in question will be considered since the infection cluster keeps swelling, Chuang said authorities, as per normal practice, will seek to trace only the customers who were in the bars at the same time as the confirmed patients.

Given that, there are concerns that some invisible patients linked to the cluster may be still out there, the Hong Kong Economic Journal noted.

With the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases nearly doubling in the past week, Undersecretary for Food and Health Dr Chui Tak-yi said citizens must not let their guard down.

The official urged people to reduce the frequency of going onto the streets as much as possible, and cut gatherings to ensure social distancing.

In other remarks, Chui revealed that 35 inbound travelers were found to have violated quarantine orders so far. People should obey the rules, he said, pointing to public health risks.

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