HK confirms four new cases of Covid-19, tally at 1,016

17-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong recorded four new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, including a British permanent resident who was infected in his country of birth four weeks ago, cleared to go outdoors, but then tested positive for the coronavirus upon his return to the city.

The fresh cases marked a fourth straight day of single-digit increase in infections for Hong Kong, bringing the tally to 1,016.

The new cases comprised three men and a woman, aged between 22 and 60. All had a recent history of travel.

They had recently arrived in Hong Kong from Britain, the Netherlands, and Morocco, including a student studying abroad.

Although infection numbers seemed to be dwindling, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said people should not let their guard down and be prepared for a long-term battle with Covid-19, while wearing masks and social distancing could become a part of normal life.

“Many experts have said the virus could last for a long time until after most people have developed antibodies or vaccines are developed or there is medicine,” Chuang said.

“Some experts have said wearing masks will become normality in our everyday life when going out, and so will social distancing.

“Of course, we so far have not been able to foretell how much longer the epidemic will last, or how it will end, or whether it will end at all. So I think we should be prepared to fight a long-term battle.”

The Morocco case involved a 60-year-old woman who was among a batch of residents returning to Hong Kong last weekend via Guangzhou, where she had tested negative for the virus.

She went to see a doctor after suffering blood in her stool and was tested again for Covid-19 as a precautionary procedure but subsequently was found to be positive.

Commenting on the woman’s negative results in Guangzhou, Chuang said: “It may not be unusual for test [results to turn] from negative to positive…. It is possible she is newly infected or it was a false negative in the previous test.”

Chuang said investigations were still under way to see whether the symptom of blood in stool was related to the Covid-19 infection.

Hong Kong has recorded four deaths from the virus.

A total of 550 patients were still receiving treatment in 14 public hospitals. Ten were in critical condition, eight were listed as serious, and the rest were stable, said Dr Linda Yu, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager of clinical effectiveness and technology management.

Another of the new cases, data manager Scott, 42 who could not give his full name under company rules and whose symptoms such as a fever and chest pain had subsided since late March, said Britain’s “herd immunity approach” at the time was the “complete extreme opposite” from Hong Kong’s stringent screening.

He was referring to the term used by British government advisers, based on theory that when most of the population were exposed to infections, they would develop immunity. Local authorities later denied this strategy.

Hong Kong has since March used the AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport to screen patients. The arrangement was extended in April to all air arrivals.

The British national, who has lived in Hong Kong for eight years, travelled to London in early March. After Scott developed a cough, and later came down with a fever and had difficulty breathing, he was told by the National Health Service that he had contracted Covid-19. His wife, who was with him, was later also infected.

In London, they won’t do anything, unless you can’t breathe or your lips turn blue

Scott, Hong Kong permanent resident

The NHS said both their cases were not serious enough for them to be transferred to hospital, and the couple stayed home for two weeks until their symptoms subsided.

“In London, they won’t do anything, unless you can’t breathe or your lips turn blue, and they’re not doing any testing,” he said.

He was intercepted upon arrival in Hong Kong and later transferred to Queen Elisabeth Hospital.

An NHS doctor told the couple in April that they were cleared to go out for walks, referring to guidelines that people should stay at home for at least a week until their symptoms subsided. Scott was also not tested when he took a flight out of London to Hong Kong, and was only screened upon arrival in the city, and sent to hospital.

His results returned mildly positive on the first round of testing, and positive on a second test.

“It seems the approaches in Hong Kong and the UK are polar opposites,” said Scott, who worked for a gene-testing company.

“It’s quite shocking that in the UK, the government basically doesn’t want any test kits. Their priority is on antibody tests, the one showing that you have immunity, not on whether you’ve been infected… I don’t think the herd immunity strategy has changed.”

He now has to wait at least two days to be discharged from hospital in Hong Kong, despite his relatively low viral load. “Someone [who is more ill] should be in hospital, I feel bad taking up the resources,” he said, adding he was not required to be on medication.

Meanwhile, a local consortium comprising businesses from the health care, insurance and logistics industries launched a private at-home coronavirus testing service on Wednesday, where users can deposit their deep throat saliva in the morning in a bottle delivered and collected by the local firms.

In Macau, there was no new infections reported on Wednesday, with the total number of cases standing at 45. Twenty-nine were still receiving treatment in hospital.

The Macau government also announced that air passengers to the city would need to produce a certificate issued by local health organisations saying they had not contracted the coronavirus or they would not be allowed to board their flight to the city.


Category: Hong Kong

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