Coronavirus: Hong Kong schoolgirl tests positive for mutated strain, putting 42-day streak of zero untraceable local cases at risk

·3-min read

A 17-year-old school pupil with no travel history has tested preliminary-positive for a coronavirus variant, with the case potentially ending Hong Kong’s 42-day streak of no local untraceable infections.

The schoolgirl’s possible infection – from an unknown source so far – also triggered a lockdown for testing of residents in Tin Shing Court’s Shing Yu House in Tin Shui Wai. About 4,000 people who visited an international exhibition on May 29 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai also face mandatory screening if they have not been vaccinated.

The girl had visited the education expo at 4pm that day. Education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung also attended but has been fully vaccinated.

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It was unclear on Friday if the teenager had come into contact with others who had a travel history, a medical source said, adding that an investigation was under way.

The student developed a runny nose and a fever on Wednesday. She was tested on Thursday and returned a positive result for the N501Y mutation of the virus, which is linked to more infectious variants. The patient was sent to Tuen Mun Hospital on the same day.

Since the pupil’s specimen involved the N501Y mutation, it was likely to be a true infection, rather than one contaminated by traces of a Covid-19 vaccine, as happened in the recent case of a 35-year-old policeman, Chinese University’s Professor David Hui Shu-cheong said.

His fellow government pandemic adviser Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said the city had to be “vigilant” with any case, adding it underlined the importance of vaccination in the face of a mutant virus that could spark a fifth local wave.

Health officials confirmed one imported infection from Austria on Friday, bringing the city’s tally to 11,850 cases, with 210 related deaths. The city had been edging closer to its target of zero infections and had recorded no untraceable local cases for 42 days as of Friday.

In light of the 17-year-old girl’s case, Queen Elizabeth School Old Students’ Association Tong Kwok Wah Secondary School said it would suspend classes on campus for 21 days from Friday.

The teen last attended school in Tin Shui Wai on Wednesday. Anyone who stayed on campus for more than two hours from May 12 to Wednesday is also required to undergo a test.

The Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong, organiser of the 27th Hong Kong International Education Expo, said in a statement that all exhibitors, contractors and workers had tested negative before joining the event. It also appealed to the 4,000 visitors to receive a test as early as possible.

A spokesman for the education minister said Yeung had attended the exhibition briefly on May 29 but had already been fully vaccinated, meaning he could be exempted from the mandatory testing.

It also emerged that health authorities were looking into the case of a 22-year-old student with good health history who suffered a stroke four days after receiving the second dose of the BioNTech vaccine, and investigating whether a link existed between his condition and the jab.

The investigation by Kwong Wah Hospital would include whether the student had other risk factors such as young hypertension or cerebral vessel disease, and the results would be submitted to the government’s expert panel on vaccine adverse effects, a medical source told the Post.

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