22nd March 2020 – (Hong Kong) Since 19th March, the Hong Kong government will enforce a compulsory quarantine for anyone, regardless of nationality, arriving in Hong Kong who has travelled to any overseas countries/territories within a 14-day period.
The COVID-19 pandemic which was under control in Hong Kong earlier has started to take a turn for the worse. There were 17 newly confirmed cases and 20 presumptive cases, including 17 men and 20 women, aged between 20 months and 72 years old, and the cumulative number of confirmed cases has now increased to 273.
Most of the new cases have travel history, including 6 international students and 2 Cathay Pacific employees. As for the Canadian and Bolivian tour groups, 5 confirmed cases and 2 presumptive cases were recorded. At least 5 people were diagnosed and one was tested positive in preliminary diagnosis in the Discovery Bay Wedding Banquet Group, including the groom and his mother-in-law. According to the Centre for Health Protection’s information, patient zero is the No. 259 case followed by case No. 191 who developed symptoms on 16th March. Patient no. 191 went to LKF with a friend to party on 13th March. Two other friends have been diagnosed positive. One of them developed symptoms on 13th March, earlier than Case No. 191. Three other COVID-19 infected patients also visited Soho and LKF 9 times in 3 days including Brickhouse, H-CODE and bars near Ho Lee Commercial Building during incubation period.
At the same time, in the past 4 days, 25 local infection cases have been accumulated including 1 who works in Kwun Tong and 1 on Hollywood Road. 3 out of 4 infected patients who visited Pure Fitness also had no recent travel history. In many cases, the patient zero is unknown and there is no travel history. Experts have warned that the invisible transmission chain in the community is gradually taking shape.
Dr. Gabriel Leung, Dean of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong expressed during a TV interview this morning that the number of confirmed cases may reach a new high over the next weekend, with the possibility to break through the 48 cases per day mark. He further described the period as the most dangerous turning point for Hong Kong. He believes that the scope of detection of arrivals needs to be expanded. Except for high-risk groups such as the elderly, all people from the worst-hit areas such as the United Kingdom, Europe and North America should be tested upon arrival in addition to compulsory quarantine.
Leung suggested that Hong Kong people should pursue “three-tiered anti-epidemic” measure in the next week or two, including self-discipline, reduce social contact and reduction of unnecessary travel, restaurants should consider closing at night, or just offer take-out food, or re-arrange tables and chairs in the restaurant so that diners can sit in the same direction to reduce the chances of infection.
If the response to the epidemic still does not work, he said that the government should emulate the UK’s order to close down bars, restaurants, cinemas, fitness centres (4 Pure Fitness members and 1 Fitness First member have been tested positive in HK so far) and other places in the city, but at the same time subsidize 80% of the income of grassroots and provide relief measures for businesses. He also pointed out that the number of confirmed cases has increased recently, but the current risk of the epidemic cannot be judged solely by the numbers, and the control of. “immediate reproduction rate” of the virus is currently at above 1, which means that a patient can transmit the virus to more than one person.
He also pointed out that in the past week, a large number of Hong Kong residents studying or working abroad returned to the city. The incubation period is not fully over. From infection, incubation, onset, detection to confirmation, there may be lags, resulting in delays in response measures coping with epidemic development. Leung acknowledged that the number of quarantine centres in Hong Kong was still insufficient. Although some hotels were willing to convert into quarantine centres, they were reluctant to disclose their names.