Covid-19 cases jump to 641; another police officer falls victim

March 30, 2020 13:07
A file picture shows paramedics carrying a patient in a stretcher on to an ambulance in Hong Kong on March 14. The city has witnessed a worrisome rise in confirmed Covid-19 cases in the past few days. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong continued to record a worrying spike in Covid-19 cases, with the tally of confirmed infections in the city rising to 641 over the weekend.

According to the Health Department's Centre for Health Protection (CHP), 123 people, aged 7 to 77, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the past two days. There were 64 new cases on Saturday and 59 on Sunday.

Among the newly added patients, 87 had travel history during the incubation period of the virus.

In a government press release, the CHP urged members of the public to maintain appropriate social distance with other people as far as possible in their daily lives.

Citizens should go out less and avoid social activities such as meal gatherings or other meetings to reduce the chance of contacting infected persons, who may not present any symptoms, and minimize the risk of outbreak clusters emerging in the community, it said.

Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the CHP’s Communicable Disease Branch, told a daily briefing on Sunday that while the infection sources of some of the new cases were unknown, it was found that the patients concerned had been to bars and gatherings.

Chuang pointed out that the number of confirmed cases of infection with unknown source has been increasing in recent days, suggesting that the virus have been spreading in the communities.

Among the 123 newly confirmed patients over the weekend, 16 had links to music bands that performed at bars located in places that included Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui, taking the cluster’s total to 60.

After learning that one of the 16 people, a customer, was found to have worked on the 39th floor of a unit at the Cheung Kong Center in Central, the property management company of the building said it has begun to conduct thorough disinfection work on the floor where the staffer worked, as well as three floors above and three floors below and the ground floor lobby.

Chuang noted that investigations on the latest cases have revealed that more bars that were not on the CHP’s radar before, including outlets in Sai Ying Pun, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui, could be linked to infections. The official did not disclose the identities of the outlets.

On Sunday, police said a 31-year-old male officer preliminarily tested positive for Covid-19, making him the third member of the law enforcement force to fall victim to the virus.

The officer, posted to the Police Tactical Unit and stationed in Kowloon West Region, had participated in anti-crime patrols and had no travel history over the past 14 days, the police said.

Officers from the unit will now not take up any duties that would require interaction with members of the public, aithorities said.

The infected officer, who is receiving treatment at the Caritas Medical Centre, claimed that he had no contact with a 22-year-old female officer who was admitted earlier to a hospital for contracting Covid-19.

In other developments, Rex Chang Wai-yuen, Director of Information Services, said in an internal letter that a staff member who works in the Harbour Building in Sheung Wan, where the government department's headquarters are located, tested positive for Covid-19.

The infected staffer went to New Zealand and the United Kingdom on vacation between March 7 and 18 and has been arranged to work from home after returning to Hong Kong, according to the Information Services Department (ISD).

All public places in the Harbour Building at have been thoroughly disinfected immediately, the ISD said.

In related news, Dr. Sara Ho Yuen-ha, chief manager for patient safety and risk management at the Hospital Authority (HA), told media that there are currently 1,012 negative-pressure beds and 534 negative-pressure wards and that their occupancy rates stood at 62 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

Saying the 800 negative-pressure beds for adult use have all been occupied, Ho offered an apology to the patients in need who have to wait until more beds are available.

Negative-pressure infrastructure refers to facilities aimed at preventing cross-contamination in hospital units, deploying ventilation that generates "negative pressure" to allow air to flow into an isolation room but not escape from the unit.

Ho said that 400 second-tier isolation beds will be put to use this week, but she predicted that they will also be occupied in a short time based on the current rate of increase in newly confirmed cases.

HA chief executive Dr. Tony Ko Pat-sing confirmed in a radio program Monday morning that the 400 second-tier isolation beds will come into service this week, in order to make the first-tier isolation beds available to more serious patients, to relieve the pressure on the wards.

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