HK’s Omicron outbreak expected to end by early February, leading health adviser says

14-Jan-2022 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s Omicron outbreak is expected to end around Lunar New Year at the start of February provided no untraceable chains of Covid-19 transmission emerge in the community, a government pandemic adviser has predicted.

The assessment by University of Hong Kong microbiologist Professor Yuen Kwok-yung came as health authorities revealed on Thursday that one of two untraceable cases, involving a security guard at the Penny’s Bay quarantine camp, had the same genome sequence as a female flight attendant who triggered a dance cluster at the centre of the outbreak.

Yuen said the current string of infections was being managed and the overall tally had not drastically increased, with only one untraceable case at present.

“If we can identify all the transmission chains and the number of local cases remains stable, this wave of the coronavirus could end before or after Chinese New Year,” he told a radio programme.

On January 9, the 51-year-old security guard put a notice on the door of a room of an infected person, who was inside at the time but there was a screen window between them. The security guard was wearing protective gear.

Asked whether the outbreak was already under control, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, said: “We are concerned about the local cases and untraceable transmission the most. The other cases are mostly imported cases. As we had already banned entry from a lot of places, the drop in the number of cases was expected. ”

The city confirmed 14 cases and fewer than 10 preliminary infections on Thursday. The overall Covid-19 tally stands at 13,016, with 213 related deaths.

Health authorities were also investigating a suspected transmission at a Japanese hotpot restaurant that surfaced on Wednesday after a 20-year-old university student who ate there tested preliminary-positive for the coronavirus. He visited the Causeway Bay restaurant for dinner on January 4 and two other patrons, sitting a row away, earlier tested positive for the virus.

Yuen said the case was “a bit strange” as the hotpot meal itself could not generate aerosols that increased the risk of transmission.

“But [hotpot] could affect the direction of the aerosol particles… in theory, these hotpot restaurants have a high air change… The person needs to sit very close to get infected,” he said.

Online photos showed the Nabe Urawa restaurant has a buffet section, where customers could get food and drinks from a communal area, and Yuen suspected the virus had spread by droplets that landed on utensils available in that section.

One of the preliminary positive cases identified on Thursday involved a nursing student from Baptist University who stayed at its Kowloon Tong campus from Monday to Wednesday, according to a university statement issued earlier.

The university arranged for the closure and disinfection of all the classrooms the student visited, while certain classes would be conducted online, it said.

Yuen also elaborated on his earlier recommendation that residents wear two masks, a surgical one with another cloth one on top, to strengthen protection amid the Omicron outbreak.

“The cloth mask can eliminate any gaps around your face and help cover your cheeks completely,” he said, adding that some studies had proved double masking could improve air filtration.

Research had also shown that adding a cloth mask did not significantly impair breathing, he said, adding pairing two surgical masks would not lead to a more careful fit.

Yuen recommended that people whose work put them at high risk of exposure or residents who were unvaccinated for medical reasons wear two masks, especially when in densely populated areas.


Category: Hong Kong

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