Hong Kong confirmed 21 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, the highest daily caseload in nine days, while the minister handling the city’s mass vaccination programme admitted the take-up rate for bookings had dropped due to public concerns over people seeking hospital treatment after receiving the Sinovac vaccine.
Health authorities were also dealing with a growing new outbreak stemming from the Coast Seafood and Grill restaurant at Causeway Bay’s trendy Fashion Walk dining strip, where a fourth infection was reported on Tuesday.
Of the 21 new cases citywide, 13 were imported from countries including Pakistan, the Philippines and Singapore – the highest since November 12.
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One of the locally transmitted cases was a one-month-old baby, and three were untraceable.
The latest cases pushed the city’s infection tally to 11,120, with 202 related deaths.
Among the three unlinked cases was a 56-year-old man who had lunch at Coast Seafood and Grill on February 22. Three other people who had lunch there on the same day were confirmed infected earlier. All four had sat at three different tables close to each other.
One of the four had also eaten at Mr Ming’s Chinese Dining restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui’s K11 Musea mall, the site of a major outbreak recently, with 52 employees, customers and their close contacts infected.
“We’re trying to trace all those patrons [who were at Coast Seafood and Grill] on the same day to see if there’s any asymptomatic transmission,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch.
All Coast Seafood and Grill staff had tested negative, Chuang said, but they would have to be screened further to identify silent carriers.
Among the fewer than 10 people who tested preliminary-positive citywide was a 26-year-old man working at a Kwun Tong care home for the mentally disabled. More than 50 of the residents had to be quarantined, along with some 20 staff.
The Department of Health, meanwhile, said a 51-year-old man was in a critical condition after receiving a Sinovac jab last week. The patient, who has diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia, was vaccinated last Wednesday and experienced shortness of breath three days later. He sought help at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Monday and was later admitted to the intensive care unit.
An expert committee monitoring the side effects of vaccines will examine the case.
Earlier on Tuesday, civil service chief Patrick Nip Tak-kuen told a radio show the proportion of people turning up for their vaccination appointments had fallen from 90 per cent at the launch of the programme last month to 72 per cent.
He said it was a reflection of public concern over reports of serious health complications and three deaths among people who had received Sinovac jabs.
The third death, revealed on Monday, sparked new concerns about the vaccine because the 71-year-old patient had no public record of chronic illnesses, unlike the two previous fatalities.
The expert committee will assess a detailed autopsy report before deciding if his death was linked to the vaccine. The panel earlier concluded there were no direct links between the vaccines and the deaths of two people with chronic illnesses.
Nip reiterated the government took every incident involving jabs very seriously, adding the committee would weigh up each case to ascertain any causation links between the vaccine and the patient’s condition.
Asked why Hong Kong was vaccinating people aged above 60 when mainland China had not yet recommended the use of the Sinovac jab for that age group, Nip said the city’s advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines had, after careful assessment, determined the benefits of getting the elderly population inoculated outweighed the risks.
“In the past, especially during the third wave of case surges [in July], infections and deaths among the elderly age groups were high,” Nip said.
On Tuesday, 8,700 people received the mainland-made Sinovac vaccine. A total of 113,500 people have been inoculated with either Sinovac or BioNTech vaccines since the drive launched in late February.
Initially, those aged 60 or above were prioritised in the vaccination campaign. Others such as health care workers, residents and staff of care homes, public service employees and cross-boundary transport workers were also among those allowed to get the vaccines first.
From Tuesday, the programme was expanded to include more people, including catering sector and supermarket workers, with about 3.7 million people in the city now covered.
Separately, the Food and Health Bureau said on Tuesday evening it was very dissatisfied that Kingmed Diagnostics (Hong Kong), which runs a Covid-19 testing centre in Yau Ma Tei, failed to deliver results to 6,000 residents within 48 hours, as was required in the contract.
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This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong logs 21 new cases, while official admits reports of serious health complications and three deaths after jabs have hit vaccine bookings first appeared on South China Morning Post