Hong Kong officials apologised on Tuesday as they admitted a total of 24 residents had received a different Covid-19 vaccine to the one they booked since the mass inoculation programme began at the end of February.
Revealing an additional 19 such instances to the five previously reported, a government spokesman said some people went to a vaccination centre they had not chosen after changing their minds on which jab they wanted, while others attended the wrong venue by mistake.
The administration has reviewed procedures at vaccination centres, and new measures have been implemented to avoid similar mistakes in the future, according to a press statement released on Tuesday night.
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The apology was issued after Hong Kong confirmed 13 new coronavirus infections, most of which were imported.
The Post previously reported that five people had been given the wrong Covid-19 vaccine after mixing up inoculation centres.
They included 55-year-old blood cancer patient David Allardice and his companion, who were given the Sinovac jab rather than the BioNTech one they had booked, and a 47-year-old woman and two relatives who took the German-made shot by mistake.
“We have apologised to affected citizens for failing to screen the booking properly and will follow up,” the government spokesman said.
“We urge the public to check the location of the vaccination centre and information on the jabs to avoid going to the wrong venue.”
Under the new procedures, each vaccination centre and general outpatient clinic has been assigned a unique site number, with venues administering Sinovac and BioNTech shots labelled “S” and “B” respectively.
Signs at the entrance of the venue and text messages with booking details now also show the vaccination centre’s site number.
Staff have been reminded to be more vigilant, and jab recipients will also be given a leaflet clearly stating the name of the vaccine.
For the latest infections, eight of the 10 imported ones involved a mutant strain of the coronavirus, taking the total number of variant-strain infections identified in Hong Kong to 210.
Authorities tightened their flight suspension policy in a move to curb imported cases, with new rules effective on Wednesday.
An airline can have a particular route banned for 14 days if at least three passengers – down from five – on a single flight are identified as infected on arrival, or if two flights operated by a carrier from the same port each have two or more passengers – reduced from three each on consecutive flights – are found to have contracted the coronavirus within a seven-day window.
The two-week ban triggered by any failure by a traveller on a given flight to provide the correct information – combined with the presence of at least one coronavirus-passenger on board – remains unchanged.
To target mutant strains of the coronavirus, all airlines would be banned from operating flights to Hong Kong from a specific country for 14 days if five or more passengers across any of the carriers tested positive for a variant strain of Covid-19 within a seven-day period.
However, positive cases detected during hotel quarantine do not count towards the total – only those discovered upon arrival.
Residents of Sham Tseng, meanwhile, were taken by surprise when authorities cordoned off Tower 2 of Lido Garden at 8pm for mandatory testing.
The lockdown was expected to end at 7am on Wednesday, and those in the building were told to stay in their homes until all of them had been tested for Covid-19 and most of the results were ascertained.
A third evacuation was ordered at Block 3, Oi Fai House at Yau Oi Estate in Tuen Mun on Tuesday evening, covering residents living on the 22nd floor.
It came after seven cases involving flats numbered 09, 31 and 32 – including two on the 22nd floor – were earlier confirmed as infected. Some 260 people had previously been evacuated from the building.
The day’s sole untraceable case involved a 55-year-old housewife living in the targeted building in Sham Tseng. The two other local cases were linked to her but as she had the earliest onset of symptoms her infection was classed as being from an unknown source.
She had bought groceries near Yeung Uk Road wet market during both her incubation and infectious periods, and also visited Leisurely Veggie restaurant at Citywalk shopping centre in Tsuen Wan on March 28 with relatives and a friend.
The woman went grave-sweeping on April 3 with her family in Tsang Tsui before eating at Pastaholic restaurant in Tuen Mun’s Trend Plaza. She also shopped at Toys ”R” Us and Uniqlo in Tuen Mun Town Plaza.
The other two cases were the 55-year-old’s relatives. One of them was a 34-year-old woman who briefly lived with the housewife, and works at Prosperity Tower in Central.
They took part in some shopping, eating and grave-sweeping activities together, while the younger woman also engaged in the latter in Tseung Kwan O with eight relatives.
The other local case involved a 38-year-old man, who has two homes in Tsim Sha Tsui and Ngau Chi Wan. He also stays at the housewife’s home on occasion and works on the 29th floor of the Clifford Centre in Cheung Sha Wan.
More than 20 colleagues of the two workers will be quarantined.
Asked about the contagion risks associated with grave-sweeping, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said: “I do not think grave-sweeping itself will pose risks to the spread of Covid, if [people] put on masks.
“But if some of the members of the [grave-sweepers] take off their masks and share food after grave-sweeping, they may pose risks to other members nearby.”
Fewer than five preliminary-positive cases were also reported on Tuesday. The city’s official tally now stands at 11,607 cases, while the death of a 77-year-old man pushed the number of related fatalities to 208.
Separately, the government has launched its pilot Covid-19 vaccination programme for care homes, under which outreach teams and visiting medical officers will attend 10 facilities for the elderly and administer shots for suitable residents.
The scheme will be extended later to the rest of the city’s 1,100 or so institutions for the elderly, people with disabilities and nursing homes.
Also on Tuesday, the city’s BioNTech vaccination programme was boosted by the arrival of 300,000 more doses on Tuesday.
Starting on March 24, authorities halted the administration of the German-made jabs for 12 days over packaging defects on more than 50 vials, leaving 1 million doses in storage pending an investigation. Question marks remain over whether they will be put to use.
Since the launch of the local Covid-19 vaccination programme in late February, about 615,300 people, or 8.2 per cent of the city’s 7.5 million population, have received the first dose of vaccine. Some 303,400 people, or 4 per cent of the population, meanwhile, have received the second dose and are considered fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, family visits to eight infirmary hospitals would be allowed to resume from next Wednesday. Visitors must present a negative coronavirus nucleic acid test result in the 72 hours before the visit.
But those who had received the last of their two Covid-19 vaccine doses at least 14 days earlier could choose to take a rapid version of the test at home instead.
The latest BioNTech shipment follows the delivery of 300,000 doses on April 2.
Two vaccines have been approved for emergency use in Hong Kong: CoronaVac, produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech, and Comirnaty, which was jointly developed by US-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, and is supplied through the mainland firm Fosun Pharma.
Meanwhile, family visits to eight infirmary hospitals will be allowed to resume from next Wednesday. Visitors must present a negative coronavirus test result beforehand.
But those who have received the last of their two Covid-19 vaccine doses at least 14 days earlier can instead take a rapid version of the test at home.
Authorities have said current social-distancing rules, which include limiting public gatherings and restaurant tables to four people, will be extended for another two weeks to April 28 when they expire on Wednesday, given the ongoing possibility of a rebound in infections after the Easter holiday.
Egypt will be designated as a high-risk country starting on April 20, the government announced on Tuesday. Travellers from such places are required to have a 21-day booking for mandatory quarantine at a designated hotel and test negative for Covid-19 in the 72 hours before flying.
Officials have also banned Emirates passenger flights from Dubai and Bangkok from landing in Hong Kong for two weeks until April 26, after flight EK384 brought in five passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival at the airport on Sunday.
Additional reporting by Rachel Yeo and Elizabeth Cheung
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