4th July 2022 – (Hong Kong) The then Secretary for Food and Health stipulated in March last year a requirement on air change or air purifiers to be complied with by dine-in catering premises in the directions in relation to the catering business under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F). The Working Group established for the smooth implementation of the requirement held an online meeting again this evening in view of the cluster of infection cases related to sub-lineages BA.4 or BA.5 under the Omicron mutant strain arising from a restaurant for the first time. The Chairman of the Working Group, expert members and representatives from the government departments were briefed by departments on the respective inspection findings at the premises, and discussed the latest epidemic developments and offered views on anti-epidemic strategies.
At the meeting, the Working Group has examined the cluster of sub-lineages BA.4 or BA.5 infection cases that emerged from customers who had dinner at Hotpot Foodie at Shop C, G/F, Montery Plaza, 15 Chong Yip Street, Kwun Tong on 24th June , including the cumulative number of confirmed cases and known information on their air change and air purifiers. Up to 4th July in terms of primary cases, the cumulative number of infection cases of the restaurant is 15 persons. According to data from on-site measurement, the air change per hour (fresh air) of its seating areas reaches 7.28; however, some of its equipment (e.g. the exhaust fans in kitchen and toilets) have malfunctioned. The possibility of various factors contributing to the infection cases could not be ruled out.
According to the Working Group’s understanding, sub-lineages BA.4 or BA.5 are more transmissible and the possibility of large-scale infections happened overseas cannot be ruled out, operators, staff and customers of catering premises therefore must not lower their guards. All catering premises operators must ensure that their fresh air related ventilation system must be properly switched on, operated, repaired and maintained on an ongoing basis while the premises are opened for business. Premises operators contravening the directions under Cap. 599F relating to air change per hour have to shoulder criminal liability and their premises are also subject to corresponding measures for reducing the risk of transmission, i.e. on the subsequent day of being identified of the irregularities by the enforcement officers, ceasing the sale or supply of food or drink for consumption on the premises from 6pm to 4.59am of the subsequent day and restricting the number of persons per table to no more than two, for a period of 14 days.
Further to the routine action checklist on ventilation systems and air purifiers uploaded onto the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) thematic webpage (www.fehd.gov.hk/english/licensing/guide_general_reference/Air_Change_Action_Checklist.pdf) and the short video (www.fehd.gov.hk/english/licensing/guide_general_reference/video-corner.html) earlier on, the Working Group has also discussed some feasible and affordable technological solutions that could assist the catering trade to self-monitor that the ventilation system of its premises has been switched on and is operating effectively.
The Chairman of the Working Group, Professor Yuen Pak-leung, said “Operators of catering business premises should seriously check the ventilation systems of their premises, to ensure their effective operation, sufficient fresh air supply and even coverage of all zones of the seating areas. The FEHD and the Working Group have, on numerous occasions, given advice and reminders, and provided technical guidance. If necessary, catering premises operators should seek assistance from professionals, such as a registered specialist contractor (ventilation works category) (ventilation contractor).”
The Working Group reiterates its calls for the catering sector, other sectors and members of the public to continue to comply with the relevant regulations on prevention and control of diseases, including the prevailing requirements on ventilation and air change in the relevant premises and routinely keeping such systems in good operation, in a concerted and persistent manner, so as to strengthen the protection of personal and public health. In addition, as vaccination is a very crucial part of the local anti-epidemic strategy, the Working Group also encourages the public who have not yet received vaccination to get vaccinated as early as possible for better protection of their own health as well as that of the public.