The extended measures will last till next Thursday, as leading microbiologist and government adviser Professor Yuen Kwok-yung made fresh calls for the mandatory testing of people with mild symptoms.
Among the eight Covid-19 cases reported on Tuesday, four were locally infected, including two with unknown sources.
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Those without traceable sources were a 68-year-old retiree who lives in Tseung Kwan O, and a 48-year-old man who works at Cityplaza One and last went to work on October 9.
The four imported infections came from a cargo aircrew member from Germany, a domestic helper from the Philippines, and two arrivals from France, and India. The latest cases brought the city’s tally to 5,201, with 105 related deaths.
Officials said the four temporary testing centres in Wan Chai, Kwai Tsing, Kowloon City, and Yau Tsim Mong would remain open until Friday.
The four centres, which were closed on Tuesday because of Tropical Storm Nangka, were originally scheduled to shut on Wednesday.
Yuen, a University of Hong Kong (HKU) infectious disease expert, told a radio programme on Tuesday that health authorities and law enforcement agencies should have powers to take action against people who refused to take part in his proposed mandatory testing programme for those with mild symptoms.
He also denied he was being alarmist when he suggested earlier that Hong Kong might face tens of thousands more Covid-19 infections and up to 1,000 deaths this winter if gaps in the city’s infection control measures were not plugged.
“Many people criticised that I was fearmongering. I am not. I wanted to tell people the truth,” Yuen said.
“The pandemic situation in summer is always better than in winter. The period in which the virus can survive in summer is much shorter than in winter.”
Health expert Dr Ho Pak-leung, also a microbiologist from HKU, told the same radio programme that infected cases could rise quickly as winter approached, while urging people showing symptoms to get tested “as soon as possible”.
However, Dr Leung Chi-chiu, a specialist in respiratory diseases, said he did not think mandatory testing of people with mild symptoms would be a feasible option.
“It is too common to see people with mild symptoms,” Leung said, adding that it was “unlikely” such a volume of patients could be tested promptly with tens of thousands potentially falling under that description.
Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a Chinese University respiratory medicine expert who is also a government adviser on the coronavirus, said he agreed with Yuen in principle on the need to increase testing rates, but feared mandatory testing might be counterproductive in practice.
“There could be a sizeable amount of people with mild symptoms who may just take a pill to get over a fever,” he said, “but mandatory testing may put them off further, so they may not even go to see a doctor for their symptoms.”
Hui said mandatory testing could be carried out for select high-risk groups, pointing to taxi drivers, domestic workers living in shared dormitories, and Kwai Tsing container terminal workers as examples.
Hong Kong’s social-distancing measures currently in force cap the number of people allowed to gather publicly or sit together in restaurants to four. Pubs can only have two customers per table and must not operate after midnight.
Additional reporting by Victor Ting
More from South China Morning Post:
- Coronavirus: two Hong Kong schools temporarily closed as health authorities reject doctor’s suggestion city already amid Covid-19 fourth wave
- Hong Kong facing 1,000 winter deaths from coronavirus, expert warns, as city records seven new cases of Covid-19