Hong Kong on Monday confirmed 16 new coronavirus infections, of which one was locally transmitted, but top infectious disease experts warned the city could be hit by another surge of cases after large gatherings over the Easter break.
The local case, involving a 32-year-old man, was untraceable. Six of the 15 imported cases were from the Philippines, five from India and the other four from Pakistan. The city’s official tally stood at 11,524, with 205 related deaths. Three preliminary-positive cases, all imported, were recorded.
University of Hong Kong Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, who received his second dose of the BioNTech vaccine as its roll-out resumed in the morning, said he expected cases to rise, as fewer residents typically visited the doctor over holidays, leading to more undetected infections.
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He also noted the crowds enjoying the long holiday across the city.
“Everyone needs to get vaccinated soon so we can reach 70 per cent herd immunity … otherwise, when it comes to going for holidays overseas or work, we might not be able to resume that even as the year ends,” Yuen said, after receiving his booster jab at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Sports Centre.
Distribution of BioNTech shots was abruptly suspended on March 24 on the advice of distributor Fosun Pharma after the city’s frontline staff identified more than 50 defects in vials – including cracks, leaks and exterior stains. The vaccine was jointly developed by Germany’s BioNTech and US-based Pfizer.
About 5,200 people received their first dose of the BioNTech vaccine and roughly 6,500 their second dose when distribution resumed on Monday.
Overall, about 487,000 people, or 6.5 per cent of the city’s population, have so far received their first vaccine dose. Another 90,200 people, or 1.2 per cent of the population, have taken their second jab and were fully vaccinated.
Hong Kong recorded no local cases on Sunday, although seven imported infections were confirmed. But respiratory specialist Dr Leung Chi-chiu said the lack of local infections was “not the norm”, and warned of a rising number of cases over the Easter holidays.
“The government relaxing social-distancing measures could send the wrong message to the public, as everyone may think the outbreak has subsided, making it more at risk for a rebound,” he told a local radio show.
He also called for the government to strengthen testing services after the Easter holidays.
The latest locally infected patient, meanwhile, lives in Yau Tong and last went to work on March 22 at a Fortress electronic store at Wai Fung Plaza on Nathan Road, Mong Kok. Anyone who had been in the Fortress branch for more than two hours in the past two weeks must take a Covid-19 test.
The man often shopped at a wet market in Lei Yue Mun Plaza, where two previously infected patients had also visited.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said a compulsory testing order would be issued for the market as a precaution.
“It’s just to make sure their presence in the market was just a coincidence, not reflecting there’s silent transmission,” she said.
The man had also visited his wife, who gave birth at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong on March 24, between March 23 and 26. But Chuang said those at the hospital would not be required to undergo screening because he did not have any contact with patients.
“The case did not go into any ward … in United Christian Hospital, he just waited outside in the corridor with a mask on,” she said. “For the other days, he just came to pick up his wife and also brought some things to his wife. He didn’t have any contact with other patients, that’s why we have not asked the hospital to do any mandatory testing.”
Separately, Hong Kong has banned Indian carrier Vistara from operating flights from New Delhi to the city for 14 days, starting on Tuesday, for breaching Covid-19 rules.
The ban was invoked after two consecutive passenger flights on March 10 and Sunday each brought in three or more passengers who tested positive for the coronavirus on arrival at the airport.
The most recent two-week ban was on Singapore Airlines flights from the city state to Hong Kong from April 3 until April 16.
Additional reporting by Thomas Shum
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