Hong Kong recorded its third death from the coronavirus on Sunday, as five more people were confirmed to have contracted the disease, the city’s health authorities announced, taking the total tally of cases to 114.
The 76-year-old woman, who had diabetes and lived in Un Lok House in Cheung Sha Wan’s Un Chau Estate, died at 5.13pm in Caritas Medical Centre, the Hospital Authority confirmed. She was admitted to hospital on February 29 after she was believed to have contracted the virus locally.
Her 79-year-old husband is in a stable condition in the same hospital. The couple had visited a park in their housing estate and also Po On Road Market in the district during the incubation period of the disease, but authorities were unable to locate the origin of their infection.
Among the five new cases, three have no symptoms. Three of the cases were likely to be imported infections.
Together with another case earlier considered “probable” but not deemed “confirmed”, a total of 115 people have been hospitalised after testing positive for the coronavirus. Fifty-eight of them have been discharged, 48 remain in nine public hospitals, with one in critical condition, according to the authority.
The 111th case is a 76-year-old man who had recently visited India with other Hong Kong travellers, five of whom were later confirmed to be infected.
He first had diarrhoea on February 23 when he was still in India and again on March 2, after which he sought hospital treatment, but his upper respiratory tract test originally returned negative results. His infection was only confirmed on Sunday after his deep throat saliva sample taken the previous day tested positive for the virus.
He spent most of his time at home in Baguio Villa on Hong Kong Island upon his return from India.
His wife has been sent to a quarantine centre, while his domestic worker and other close contacts in the family will be isolated there too now.
The 112th case, a local infection with no symptoms, is a 55-year-old man who lives in Hong Fook Court in North Point’s Bedford Gardens. He is the husband of an infected woman. His wife was confirmed as having the infection after visiting the Fook Wai Ching She Buddhist temple in North Point, where others had also been infected.
The 113th one, also believed to be a local asymptomatic infection, is a 47-year-old domestic helper who worked for an infected woman.
Her employer, a Jockey Club member who was discharged from hospital on Sunday, is thought to have transmitted the disease to at least three other people, including another domestic helper working for her, as well as her pet dog.
The Pomeranian, which has been quarantined, was believed to be the first reported case of human-to-animal transmission.
The 114th case is a 41-year-old British national who recently visited Japan and London. The Happy Valley resident, who lives on Blue Pool Road, took the CX250 flight from London to Hong Kong on February 29, and later developed a runny rose, sore throat and headache.
He went to work at Lee Garden One on Wednesday and Thursday, and contact tracing would be extended to his colleagues. Authorities said he was likely to have contracted the virus abroad, but have classified it as a likely local infection on a more “conservative” basis as he had spent some time in the city after his return.
The 115th case, announced late on Sunday, is a 59-year-old woman who has now been admitted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei.
Commenting on the spike in imported infections in recent days, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection admitted the situation presented a new challenge for the city.
“We are aware of the global situation, it’s very difficult to quarantine all travellers from everywhere in the world,” she said, adding “we would advise the public to delay unnecessary travel”.
Earlier on Sunday, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung from the University of Hong Kong (HKU), who advised the authorities on control measures against the disease, said on a pre-recorded television programme that the epidemic might not end this year as there could be more imported cases from the southern hemisphere in winter, even if the situation in mainland China and Hong Kong might have improved in summer.
Chuang conceded there was a possibility that the disease “will stay with us”.
“At present, because the disease is still new to us, we are trying our best to delay the epidemic in Hong Kong and the spread in Hong Kong to buy time to see whether we can have better methods to fight this disease,” she said.
“When we understand more about the route of transmission and the disease’s nature, we will have better methods to deal with it.”
Dr Linda Yu Wai-ling, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for clinical effectiveness and technology management, said public hospitals might have to cut non-emergency services further to save surgical masks and other protective gear for medical professionals on the front line, as supplies might only last for a month.
“We will continue to procure personal protective equipment for our clinical staff and promote the appropriate use of personal protective equipment in the appropriate setting,” she said.
Meanwhile, HKU is arranging virus tests for the mainland affairs minister and immigration chief, after a 38-year-old woman became the first of the Hongkongers airlifted last week from Hubei province, epicentre of the epidemic, to be diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen and Director of Immigration Erick Tsang Kwok-wai returned to Hong Kong on the same flight as the 38-year-old.
A government spokesman said Nip and Tsang were in good health.
Asked whether it was double standards that the two officials were not required to self-isolate, Chuang insisted the transmission risk was low as the “utmost” precautionary measures were carried out, citing the full protective gown worn by all passengers on the government-chartered flight, a measure not done on the airlifts to bring Diamond Princess evacuees home from Japan.
Separately, a pro-establishment lawmaker has called for more support for locals infected on the quarantined cruise ship and still receiving medical care in Japan after another Hongkonger died on Friday.
Vincent Cheng Wing-sun of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said the government should send more doctors and medicine to the remaining 29 Hongkongers hospitalised in the country.
“Hong Kong doctors could provide translation help and a second medical opinion to the patients in need there,” Cheng said.
“Drugs are also running low for some patients with pre-existing chronic illnesses. At least one person I know rushed to Japan [on Saturday] before the visa-free arrangement suspension took effect to bring medicine to a family member.”
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung
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