Coronavirus: worker at HK government headquarters suspected as infected

14-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A Hong Kong civil servant working at government headquarters is suspected to have contracted the novel coronavirus, the Post has learned, as another patient was on Thursday confirmed as the 51st person infected in the city.

The new cases came as doctors prepared to discharge a second patient recovered from the infection, which causes the newly named disease Covid-19.

Two government insiders said a support worker from the Security Bureau was in an isolation ward at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, listed as a suspected coronavirus victim and awaiting test results.

The Centre for Health Protection’s Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, however, said there had been no “confirmed or preliminary positive cases” linked to the bureau’s personnel.

Sources said the clerical worker in the bureau’s accounts section had been coughing and had a fever. It was understood he returned to the Admiralty office on Tuesday, though most civil servants have been working from home since last month.

The bureau did not immediately respond to inquiries.

News of the possible infection sparked concern among others working in the building.

One civil servant, who declined to give his name, said he was worried because he too had returned to the office recently.

“Of course, we’re worried about the case. Colleagues and I all have families,” he said.

He added that sometimes staff might not wear masks inside the office, “because departments stop giving out masks and we simply do not have enough to have another or a third mask of the day”.

Another civil servant said she too was concerned, despite working on a different floor in the building.

“The ventilation inside the government headquarters is centralised, and everyone could be using the same lift,” she said.

At a press briefing on Thursday, Chuang said no Security Bureau personnel had tested positive for the virus yet. “We have, so far, no confirmed or preliminary positive cases concerning the Security Bureau,” she said.

The usual protocol of environmental disinfection and putting close contacts into quarantine applied should a government worker be found with the virus, Chuang said.

She also said the newest confirmed case was tied to another patient, No 47, and they had a family meal with 11 other people on January 30.

Chuang said the latest patient, a 43-year-old man, is an insurance worker who lives in Tze Tin Tsuen, Tuen Mun. He had no recent travel history and started coughing on January 29, which was followed by vomiting and diarrhoea.

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“From the first 51 cases in Hong Kong, we can see that transmission [of the virus] within families, gatherings or at work is rather high,” Chuang said, urging people to avoid unnecessary activities and maintain personal hygiene.

Before he was hospitalised on Wednesday, the man consulted private doctors three times and had continued to work, Chuang said.

As a result, about a dozen of his colleagues would have to be quarantined and authorities were still looking for three clients he met during that time, Chuang said.

The 47th patient, 66, is a Tuen Mun resident from Leung Tin Tsuen.

According to the Centre for Health Protection, the 66-year-old was admitted to Tuen Mun Hospital on Monday after developing symptoms such as a sore throat, chills, coughing and fever since January 30.

His wife and mother, who live in the same flat, had no symptoms.

As of Thursday afternoon, 126 people were in isolation, according to the Hospital Authority.

Among those infected, four were in critical condition, five were serious and the rest were stable.

One person in Hong Kong had died while infected with the virus. One man was discharged on Wednesday after receiving treatment, having tested negative for the virus.

Meanwhile, a medical source said a 37-year-old woman, Hong Kong’s 11th patient confirmed infected with the virus, could be discharged soon.

Health officials said earlier that patients would only be discharged after testing negative for the virus twice, and would be required to return for further examination.

The woman, who worked in Hong Kong, fell ill after spending time with her parents, who flew to the city on January 22 from Wuhan, the city in mainland China’s Hubei province where the outbreak began.

The centre said the couple had stayed at W Hong Kong hotel in West Kowloon from January 22 to January 28, when they were hospitalised and tested positive for the virus.

Before the pair were hospitalised, they also visited the nearby Ritz-Carlton, and the Four Seasons Hotel in Central.


Category: Hong Kong

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