Three more Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Hong Kong on Friday, including a businessman recently back from Europe, bringing the city’s tally of confirmed infections to 107, health authorities said.
The news came along with word that still-unproven antiviral drug remdesivir would be offered to patients at three local hospitals beginning next week.
Speaking at a daily press briefing, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch at the Centre for Health Protection, said the first of the confirmed cases was a 56-year-old Hongkonger who had travelled to London and Paris for business from February 25 to March 4.
He went to a private hospital on Thursday night after developing a fever, headache and muscle pain and was then transferred to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai.
The businessman, a Hong Kong resident of Indian descent, flew to London on February 25 and back to Hong Kong on Wednesday. While in Europe, he made a round-trip journey between London and Paris on March 1 and 3.
“Because he mostly stayed out of Hong Kong during the incubation period, we believe it’s probably an imported case,” Chuang said, appealing for passengers who flew in business class on the same flight to contact the department if they are in Hong Kong, as his time spent travelling was considered part of the virus’ incubation period.
The man lives with his wife, two daughters and a domestic helper in Po Shan Mansion in Mid-Levels.
Before flying to London, he was known to have spent time in his New East Ocean Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui and dining out with family and clients.
Chuang said the department would track those close contacts.
The second new case was an 84-year-old man who was in a tour group to Mumbai with about 20 others between January 31 and February 24.
The man largely stayed at his home in Scenic Villas in Pok Fu Lam after returning to Hong Kong aside from trips driving his wife to the hospital and a visit to Cheung Chau island on March 4.
He was admitted to Queen Mary Hospital after suffering from bouts of coughing.
Among the man’s tour group was a 69-year-old woman who became the city’s 104th confirmed case on Wednesday.
The third case, announced late on Friday, was the woman’s husband, also 69 years old.
According to Chuang, the woman attended two wedding banquets in Hong Kong before she was hospitalised.
“Our latest findings on the woman … were that she had shared a table at a banquet on Sunday night at the Sheraton hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. She had attended another banquet earlier that day,” she said.
Chuang did not say how many guests attended the wedding or were believed to have come into close contact with the woman, but said she did not stay long at either event.
Friday’s press briefing also provided an update on plans to begin testing remdesivir, the unproven antiviral drug developed by US-based biopharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences.
Linda Yu Wai-ling, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for clinical effectiveness and technology management, said the government expected the drug to be shipped to Hong Kong next week, with Queen Mary, Princess Margaret and Prince of Wales hospitals to be the first to provide it to Covid-19 patients.
Yu noted the unregistered medicine so far lacked the clinical data and studies necessary to measure its effectiveness or potential side effects, including potentially elevated liver enzyme levels, which can cause hepatitis.
The drug has already begun trials on severe cases in Wuhan, with the results of those tests expected in April.
Separately, Yu said that 217 of the roughly 400 Hongkongers recently flown back from Wuhan, epicentre of the coronavirus, had so far tested negative for the virus. The number included 13 pregnant women, eight of whom were deemed fit for antenatal check-up.
In a statement released before Friday’s press conference, the government also revealed that HK$10,805,250 (US$1.4 million) had been donated to the Community Chest charity fund, as city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and 43 other politically appointed officials followed through on a pledge to each offer one month’s pay towards the city’s effort in combating the coronavirus.