Coronavirus: 19 new Hong Kong infections linked to growing nightlife cluster, including from Lan Kwai Fong, bringing tally to 43

Sum Lok-kei

Hong Kong has recorded 19 new cases linked to a cluster involving musicians who performed in bars, including at the popular nightlife hub of Lan Kwai Fong, bringing the total number of such infections to 43.

One of the newly confirmed cases was a musician while nine others were staff at bars in Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. Another nine were pub customers.

The bars involved are Insomnia in Lan Kwai Fong, Dusk Till Dawn and Centre Stage in Wan Chai and All Night Long in Tsim Sha Tsui.

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The musicians were part of a roster of nine bands managed by one company. Authorities said earlier that 124 people under the company could be at risk.

So far, 16 bar customers and 27 staff members, including musicians, have been confirmed as infected.

The figures came as Hong Kong recorded its highest ever daily tally of 65 cases on Friday, bringing the city’s infection total to 518.

Among the fresh cases, 41 had a recent travel history, including 14 students who returned from overseas.

An almost empty pub area at Lan Kwai Fong in Central. Photo: Robert Ng

Of the new cases who had recently travelled, the Centre for Health Protection’s Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan said some were linked to other passengers.

For example, a 71 year-old man who became case 479 is the father of case 189, a male Hongkonger living in Britain who returned to the city this month.

Two nurses were also among the 65 new cases. One of them worked at Princess Margaret Hospital and returned to Hong Kong last week from overseas. She did not go to work after returning to the city. The other nurse was among cases linked to the bar cluster.

On Thursday, health authorities listed the loss of taste and smell as a symptom of Covid-19, with at least six patients found having the condition so far.

Chuang said local authorities had written to the World Health Organisation over the loss of smell and taste among Covid-19 patients, and whether this should be regarded as a key symptom.

“Currently we are still using fever or respiratory symptoms [as reporting criteria], because these are the main ones,” she added.

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Chuang also said Hong Kong authorities did not systematically record the prevalence of the loss of taste and smell among local patients, and it remained uncertain how long this condition persisted.

“Some patients told us that it only lasted for a few days,” she said.

Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, one of the medical experts advising the city’s leader on the coronavirus pandemic, however, urged the public not to panic over such signs as they were also common in other ailments.

He said there was no need for everyone who encountered the condition but had no other symptoms to be tested for the dreaded disease.

Professor David Hui urges the public not to panic over signs such as the loss of taste and smell. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Hui, a Chinese University respiratory medicine expert, said: “Even common cold or allergic rhinitis may impair the sense of smell transiently.

“This should not be a big deal.”

Separately, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for patient safety and risk management Dr Sara Ho Yuen-ha confirmed that a 22-year-old police officer who was part of the bar cluster did not follow health care staff’s instruction to put on a mask while in hospital.

Ho said the authority was highly concerned about the case.

The incident happened as two Caritas Medical Centre workers were taking the female officer’s blood samples and conducting a cardiograph.

Ho said the officer was coughing at the time, but did not heed calls to put a mask on.

One of the medical workers became unwell and was sent to the accident and emergency unit, while the other was quarantined.

Both wore surgical masks and gloves while they were treating the officer.

Ho did not say why the policewoman had refused to wear a mask, or if the authority would condemn her actions.

She added that most patients were cooperative with health care workers, and staff could ask for help from security guards if they faced problems with compliance.

“We urge all patients to wear masks in hospitals and cooperate with health care staff,” Ho said.

The force later apologised for the patient’s behaviour, saying it had reminded all officers to cooperate with health workers.

“The incident affected the medical institution and its staff, and caused social anxiety. The force is sorry,” police said in a Facebook statement.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu also chimed in on the incident, saying it was “of course inappropriate”.

Meanwhile, as a handful of new infections were confirmed under compulsory home quarantine, the CHP’s Chuang reminded people under the policy to take precautionary measures at home.

“We hope that they can stay in a room by themselves, and avoid using the washroom with others, or eating with family members,” Chuang said.

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