Coronavirus: daughter of US consulate couple tests positive, prompting school to close; residential buildings locked down after 11 new Covid-19 cases

Kathleen Magramo

The three-year-old daughter of two US consulate employees in Hong Kong was among the city’s 11 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, prompting her preschool to shut and leaving some staff and children facing quarantine.

Lockdown orders were issued for four blocks in Sai Ying Pun and Causeway Bay on Wednesday night, after some residents were infected with the coronavirus. Officials expected the compulsory testing operation to be finished by the following morning.

Earlier in the day, banking giant HSBC closed its iconic Hong Kong headquarters until further notice amid a growing number of infections among its staff, while health authorities formally extended current social-distancing rules until the end of March.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

HSBC announced the temporary closure of its headquarters on Wednesday after three staff members contracted Covid-19. Photo: Sam Tsang
HSBC announced the temporary closure of its headquarters on Wednesday after three staff members contracted Covid-19. Photo: Sam Tsang

Separately, education authorities said about 400 secondary schools that expected to hold university entrance exams next month would suspend in-person classes between April 26 and May 3.

The move would free up space for the more than 40,000 candidates due to take exams in core subjects for the Diploma of Secondary Education, lowering the risk of infection and helping with social distancing.

Candidates who had to undergo compulsory coronavirus testing during that period would also have to present negative results before the exams took place, authorities added.

Among Wednesday’s new cases, eight were locally transmitted, including two of unknown origin, while the remaining cases were imported. Of those, two arrived from the Philippines and one from Bulgaria.

More than 10 people also tested preliminary-positive, including at least four whose infections could not be traced.

Five of the six local confirmed cases linked to earlier infections were related to the Ursus Fitness cluster, which has now grown to 132 patients, comprising 87 customers, seven employees and 38 close contacts.

Hong Kong domestic helpers reluctant to get Covid-19 vaccines

The three-year-old’s parents were confirmed as being infected on Tuesday, and the girl last attended the preschool of Woodland Montessori Academy on Caine Road in Central on Friday.

“Her two other [infected] family members did not have symptoms and [one of them] was an untraceable case, it was hard to say who infected whom,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection. “As the infection of her family could not be traced, the girl could have been infected at school or from other sources.”

Health authorities said all staff and children connected to the school had to get tested.

As some of the youngsters in the class were not able to properly wear masks, those who attended activities with the infected toddler would be sent to quarantine, Chuang said.

HSBC has said the rest of its branches across the city’s 18 districts will remain open. Photo: Sam Tsang
HSBC has said the rest of its branches across the city’s 18 districts will remain open. Photo: Sam Tsang

Wednesday’s two local cases where there were no clear sources of infection involved a housewife, and a bartender who worked at Mr Brown in Wan Chai. More than 10 other employees at the bar would need to be quarantined, officials said.

Phase Three of Kwan Yick Building in Sai Ying Pun, where the bartender lives, was locked down at 7.15pm. Officials said there was a higher risk of infection in the building, because of its age and a prevalence of subdivided units.

Lockdowns were also imposed on Hoi Kung Court and Hoi To Court on Gloucester Road in Causeway Bay after one confirmed case was recorded there.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the city stands at 11,340, with 203 related deaths.

Chuang also said there had been a decline in the number of infections linked to the gym cluster, with new cases involving people already in quarantine.

“Hopefully we have brought this outbreak under control,” she said.

She also said nine infected people who had visited Zuma Hong Kong, a high-end restaurant in Central, were linked to the gym cluster. There were no signs of transmission taking place in the restaurant, she added.

Travel rules, social measures could be eased for Hong Kong Covid-19 jab takers

HSBC made the decision to close after three people working at its offices in Central tested positive for Covid-19. Anyone who has stayed in the building for more than two hours between March 3 and 16 must undergo compulsory testing, according to a notice from the Centre for Health Protection.

The bank said branch services would be temporarily suspended across four floors of its main building, but ATM machines would remain open. It said its other branches in the city would not be affected.

Health authorities on Wednesday also gazetted a two-week extension of social-distancing rules, keeping in place a cap of four patrons per table in restaurants and a requirement that dine-in guests register their personal information.

In addition, the government announced that ventilation systems capable of completely circulating all of the air inside a restaurant at least six times per hour would be required by the end of April, or premises would have to install appropriate air purifiers as alternatives. A working group of experts in areas such as public health and engineering was formed on Tuesday to work on the guidelines for ventilation requirements.

Additional reporting by Chan Ho-him

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Coronavirus: daughter of US consulate couple tests positive, prompting school to close; residential buildings locked down after 11 new Covid-19 cases first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.