Coronavirus: infection fears among HK’s wealthy as cases emerge in private clubs

01-Dec-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s fourth wave of Covid-19 infections has spilled into the city’s private club scene as well as upmarket haunts, after an explosion in cases from a dance cluster involving studios and related premises frequented by the wealthy.

The Hong Kong Country Club, which has a HK$600,000 (US$77,400) membership entrance fee, closed its facilities at the idyllic Deep Water Bay when a patron was confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus on Friday.

Earlier on Wednesday, The China Club at Central was informed two guests who had lunch there on November 21 were also found to be infected. The club told the Post in a phone call that the venue had reopened on Friday after all staff tested negative for Covid-19.

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Such exclusive places are popular among city residents with deep pockets, who splash out exorbitant annual fees. But with Hong Kong in the throes of a resurgent wave of Covid-19 infections, the venues have come under scrutiny as controversy brews over whether those who frequent such places observed social-distancing rules.

For now, clubhouses are allowed to stay open but have to comply with government restrictions, including the four-person cap per table at dining establishments and the closure of bars, saunas and steam rooms until December 2.

The Ladies’ Recreation Club at Old Peak Road in Mid-Levels remains open with added health measures, after a member there was also confirmed with Covid-19.

Club general manager Kurt Walter in a statement on Friday said one of their private tennis coaches taught the patient on November 11 and November 18.

“During these two private lessons, [the coach] had no physical contact with the member and proper social-distancing measures were maintained throughout,” Walter said.

The club reopened on Thursday after all staff tested negative for Covid-19. Members and guests have to abide by a “Four-Step” procedure which includes temperature checks, tapping in with membership cards, signing a health declaration form and registering all guests at reception.

Meanwhile, the membership-by-invitation-only Aberdeen Marina Club in Southern district will not welcome non-member guests from November 25 to December 2, according to an announcement on its website.

So far 367 Covid-19 cases have been linked to a growing “super-spreader” cluster involving dance clubs. The city on Friday added 92 new confirmed cases overall, taking Hong Kong’s official tally to 6,039, with 108 related deaths.

There are 524 certified clubhouses citywide based on data from the Home Affairs Department, including a range of licences held by operators of places from residential clubhouses and yacht clubs to golf clubs.

Contact tracing has also unveiled that infected persons had frequented luxury venues. Upmarket Cantonese restaurant Duddell’s confirmed on Thursday a guest who dined there on Monday had been infected.

On a statement posted to its Instagram page, Duddell’s said it would close for disinfection and for staff to undergo mandatory testing for the coronavirus, and would reopen when it could ensure the safety of both guests and staff.

It said the diner who had tested positive had been seated in a private dinning room, and all staff had taken necessary precautions. The restaurant also said its anti-virus measures included enhanced cleaning and sterilisation, as well as internal accountability for all cleaning tasks. It also regularly cleaned drains with bleach, the statement said.

All staff were required to wear masks, wash their hands frequently and inform supervisors if they had plans to travel abroad.

Duddell’s case sparked rumours of infections at other upscale clubs and restaurants across the city.

The Forks and Spoons, which provides consultancy services for food and beverage, as well as hotel industry clients including Duddell’s, issued a statement debunking the claims, saying none of their other client venues had confirmed infections in the past 14 days.

Peter Leong, general manager of Taschen Asia bookstore and his partner, Tan Loke Khoon, a lawyer, both regulars at upscale restaurants such as Duddell’s and The China Club, said they had cut down their frequency of eating out by half.

“The outbreak in the past two days is very unsettling,” Leong said. “But we are not freaking out at all and don’t have any concerns going to Duddell’s on a Friday night.”

He said they would take precautions such as washing hands more often and observing social distancing. They had also cancelled a Christmas party planned to take place in two weeks.


Category: Hong Kong

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