Coronavirus: HK local tours to resume without vaccination requirement for sightseers; more than 20 new Covid-19 cases expected

23-Apr-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

About 30 kindergarten pupils will be sent to quarantine facilities in Hong Kong after their teacher was confirmed as one of two local coronavirus cases on Thursday, while a health official flagged “unusual” findings from a testing firm that detected 30 preliminary-positive infections in a day.

The developments came as the city also confirmed 12 imported Covid-19 cases on top of the two local infections, both of which were untraceable. Eight of the imported cases were from India, two from Nepal, and one each from Turkey and Pakistan. On Wednesday, Hong Kong reported no local infections for the first time in more than two weeks.

The 31-year-old female teacher worked at the Lohas Park campus of Greenfield English Kindergarten and had taught two classes of K3 pupils, children aged around five, for about 30 minutes on Tuesday, the most recent day she was in school, Dr Albert Au Ka-wing of the Centre for Health Protection said.

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“Both the teacher and the pupils wore masks. But since the learning environment was enclosed and the teacher was in the onset period, which could be more infectious, about 30 pupils in the two classes and two teaching staff will be quarantined,” Au said.

Children were normally accompanied by a guardian at a quarantine camp while those without one would be sent to hospital, he added.

Au said the woman had visited multiple places during her incubation period, including a friend’s home and a gym in Hang Hau, two restaurants in Tin Hau and Causeway Bay, a wedding expo at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, and a venue in Kwun Tong for a yoga class.

The other untraceable case was a 19-year-old man employed at Kwai Tsing Container Terminals. He worked as a checker under the company Wang Kee at piers 1, 2 and 5 of the terminal.

“He didn’t contact cargo workers at the piers. He also didn’t need to go up to ships. His main duty is inputting data of newly arrived cargoes on computer,” Au said.

Au also revealed that a single testing lab, BGI, had reported about 30 preliminary-positive cases on Wednesday.

“It is a bit unusual to see such a large number of preliminary-positive cases reported by a lab on the same day,” Au said, adding that University of Hong Kong infectious disease expert Professor Yuen Kwok-yung had been invited to inspect the facility as a precaution.

Nine of the positive cases reported by BGI involved people at the Ramada Hong Kong Grand, a designated quarantine hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. The property had been issued with a mandatory testing order after it was linked to the city’s first locally detected case of a mutated virus strain. The remaining 21 cases came from four different community testing centres.

While all 30 people had been sent to public hospitals for isolation as a precaution, Au noted nine tested negative upon admission. The 21 community centre cases were scattered across different districts, including Tuen Mun, Wong Tai Sin and Tsz Wan Shan, and no cluster patterns were seen.

Local tours, meanwhile, could resume early next month after the industry struck a deal with the government that no longer required sightseers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the city’s tourism lawmaker.

But at least one public health expert urged caution over relaxing Covid-19 rules, citing last week’s discovery of the mutated, more-infectious strain.

Those joining local tours banned in Hong Kong since the fourth wave of infections hit last November would have to use the government’s risk-exposure app but would not be made to sign up for Covid-19 jabs, said Yiu Si-wing, who represents the tourism sector in the Legislative Council.

Yiu revealed the government had “reached a consensus” with industry representatives, and was likely to table proposals for reopening local tours when the Executive Council next met on Tuesday.

“After some time for preparation, local tourism will be able to resume on May 8 or 9 at the earliest,” the industry stalwart told a radio programme.

Those embarking on the tours would have to document their visits to various premises on the “Leave Home Safe” app, through which users are notified if a Covid-19 patient has been to any of those places in a certain period.

Tour guides would still be required to receive the jabs before taking up their jobs, but those unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons could secure exemptions from their employers, Yiu said.

The latest terms were agreed after industry stakeholders pushed back against the “harsh conditions” for vaccinations, and had pointed out they were being treated differently from cinemas and theme parks, which had no such requirements imposed on them, the lawmaker added.

Dr Leung Chi-chiu, a respiratory medicine specialist, told the same show the city had to proceed cautiously with any plans to relax social-distancing restrictions, given the confirmation of cases involving mutated strains.

The first locally transmitted infection of the South African strain involved a 29-year-old engineer working in Dubai, who was now believed to have caught the virus from other travellers in the quarantine hotel.

Leung also warned of a “resurgence” of cases in Hong Kong, citing official data showing a fourfold bounce in community infections, from the previous low of three cases last week, to 12 this week.

Separately, Simon Siu Yat-ming, chair of the Hong Kong Registered Specialist Contractors (Ventilation) Association, said only 4,000 to 5,000 restaurants from a total of more than 10,000 in the city would meet the April 30 deadline for upgrading their ventilation facilities to provide indoor air changes six times per hour. He said many had encountered difficulties procuring purifiers at a price they could afford.

Siu estimated about 80 to 90 per cent of venues would fulfil the new requirement by the end of June, which was introduced after a recent virus outbreak at a restaurant in the upscale K11 Musea shopping centre.


Category: Hong Kong

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