Three people were found to be infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with two categorized as local infections as they had no travel history.
A 66-year-old Hong Kong woman, who lived in block 5, Lei Muk Shue Estate in East Tsuen Wan, was founded to be patient No 1,049, according to the Centre for Health Protection.
Her five-year-old granddaughter was patient No 1,050. Six others who had close contacts with them showed symptoms and have been sent to hospitals.
The grandmother had visited the Yeung Uk Road Market and went to her son’s house in Cheuk Ming Mansion in the same district to take care of her granddaughter on a daily basis.
She developed a fever on May 8 and stayed home for the following two days and did not take part in any Mother’s Day gathering.
Her granddaughter started staying in an apartment in Charming Garden in Tai Kok Tsui from Saturday and developed a cough on Monday. She had been to a tutorial class, attended by a teacher and another student, on May 2 and 9.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, told a media briefing that the center was still chasing the source of the virus in these two local infections and would not rule out the possibility of having a community outbreak again.
She said the center would deliver bottles to the 800 residents in Lei Muk Shue Estate so they could send their deep throat saliva samples for testing.
Chuang said it would be difficult to run Covid-19 virus tests on all residents in Hong Kong, but the center would continue to expand the scale of its testing scheme. This will cover airport staff with a quota of 500 per day from Friday and may extend to cover employees at homes for the elderly and residential care homes for those with disabilities.
Sara Ho, the Chief Manager (Patient Safety and Risk Management) at the Hospital Authority, said the government was testing up to 2,000 samples per day, depending on the number of samples collected by clinics and hospitals.
Yuen Kwok-yung, the head of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said he had asked for mass tests, but the government had done nothing so far. He said it would be ideal if at least 7,500 samples could be tested every day.
One possible source of the two local infections was people who returned from overseas and were put under home quarantine, said Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, adding that social distancing rules should not be relaxed further.
Despite the new local infections, the government was sticking to its plan to start reopening schools in phases from May 27, said Education Secretary Kevin Yeung.
“The Centre for Health Protection will be following up any close contacts and the background of the cases so we have to wait to see the outcome of the investigation before we decide whether there will be any significant impact on our schedule for class resumption,” Yeung said.
Hong Kong has recorded no local infections for 23 days. Medical experts have said previously that social distancing and quarantine measures can be further relaxed if the city sees no local infections for 28 days, equivalent to two 14-day incubation periods.
On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam raised the idea of allowing people who have a green QR code to be exempted from the 14-day quarantine measure when they come to Hong Kong from Macau and the mainland.
She said Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland have controlled their epidemic situations effectively so far and can start to discuss whether people in the three places can cross the borders with a QR code system.
In many Chinese cities, a color-coded QR system has been adopted. A person can travel and enter shops and restaurants freely with a green code, while a person with a yellow code enjoys less freedom as he or she is a close-contact of an infected one, who holds a red code.
Chui Tak-yi, an undersecretary for food and health, said sporadic new local cases are unavoidable and the public must remain vigilant. Chui said it was crucial for the city to do its best to prevent the spread of the disease in the community and if anyone has even mild symptoms of the virus they should visit a doctor and take a test.
However, he added that there was no need for a return to the kind of stringent social distancing measures which were only recently relaxed, such as the closure of bars, gyms and various entertainment venues, at this stage.
Meanwhile, a 34-year-old man, who had stayed in Pakistan since March 14 and returned to Hong Kong on May 8, was identified as patient No 1,051 on Wednesday. He was categorized as an imported case.
Read: QR codes help China fight virus