2nd August 2020 – (Hong Kong) The third wave of COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong continues to be severe. According to sources, about 110 new confirmed cases have been added as of 12am today (2nd). The cumulative number of confirmed cases has exceeded 3,500. In the past two weeks, there were many cases originated from cluster outbreaks in restaurants including those in Tuen Mun and Tsz Wan Shan. On a daily basis, the Centre for Health Protection also updated many restaurants of which COVID-19 patients went.
Apart from foreign domestic helpers who continued to gather in multiple districts in Central and Causeway Bay, many locals were spotted having lunch in restaurants and eateries with tight space this afternoon after the government made a U-turn announcement to allow dine-in services from 5am to 5.59pm daily.
The government has decided to allow dine-in services during breakfast and lunch effective from 31st July due to many complaints from working class. In the latest dine-in arrangements, the number of customers at any catering premises must not exceed 50% of the normal seating capacity of the premises and no more than two people can sit together at one table.
Other requirements and restrictions in relation to catering business premises will remain in effect, including wearing a mask at all times except when consuming food or drinks, conducting body temperature screening for people entering the premises and providing hand sanitisers.
Tables available for use or being used by customers must be arranged with a distance of at least 1.5 metres or a partition.
Other requirements and restrictions in relation to catering business premises will remain in effect, including wearing a mask at all times except when consuming food or drinks, conducting body temperature screening for people entering the premises and providing hand sanitisers. Earlier, the government announced that all dine-in services at restaurants will be completely prohibited from 29th July for a period of 7 days.
As the U-turn announcement was meant to minimise inconvenience to working class during the week, locals and foreign expatriates continued to spend their weekend at local restaurants in Causeway Bay, Kennedy Town and many districts this afternoon without adhering to government’s advice to stay at home as much as possible. Many restaurants in Hong Kong have tiny space and hence any partition boards erected in between tables are practically useless as the virus can travel easily within the enclosed space while diners are eating.
“The key factor for infection was the direction of the airflow,” researchers at the Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in a research letter to be published in the July Emerging Infectious Diseases journal published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Virus transmission in this outbreak cannot be explained by droplet transmission alone. Larger respiratory droplets remain in the air for only a short time and travel only short distances,” they said. “However, strong airflow from the air conditioner could have propagated droplets.” The Guangzhou case study traced three separate families who sat at neighbouring tables at the restaurant. In the middle was the person who had arrived from Wuhan the day before.
Incubation periods make the researchers suggest three diners at one table were infected by the primary diner. The two families overlapped at the restaurant for 53 minutes. It is also possible, the researchers note, that the primary diner infected just one diner at the other table and then later passed the infection to two family members.
For the table with two infections, which overlapped with the primary table for 73 minutes, one or both could have been from the primary infected diner. Each table had at least one person infected from the primary diner, who was “the only known source of exposure for the affected persons.” Later after going to the restaurant, the primary diner went to the hospital. The four family members associated with the primary diner could have been infected outside of the restaurant, but the researchers did not offer an opinion. The round tables were located 3.3 feet away from each other. The researchers traced 91 people – 83 customers and 8 staff members – who were in the restaurant. Of the 83 customers, 10 developed COVID-19 while the other 73 quarantined for 14 days and did not develop systems. None of the staff became infected.
Due to the severity of the epidemic, citizens should refrain from dining out during weekends when they are not working as cross-infection may occur in small restaurants in the city. Self-discipline is crucial as the last thing we want is a ‘stay-at-home’ order if the situation worsens.