Coronavirus: four more confirmed cases in Hong Kong including Diamond Princess cruise passenger, 16, who is city’s youngest Covid-19 patient

Elizabeth Cheung

A 16-year-old boy from the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise has become the first child in Hong Kong to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, as the city reported six more confirmed cases and a probable one on Wednesday, health officials said.

The teenager was one of six patients confirmed to be infected with Covid-19 on Wednesday, the Centre for Health Protection said in a press conference, taking the city’s official total to 91, with two related fatalities.

His 21-year-old sister, who was also on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan earlier this month, has given positive readings as well.

The siblings were evacuated from Japan on February 23 on the third flight the government had chartered to bring home cruise passengers. Also on the flight were officials who took part in the repatriation operation, including Director of Immigration Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, Undersecretary for Security Sonny Au Chi-kwong and officers from the Department of Health and Hospital Authority.

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Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, the centre’s head of the communicable disease branch, said passengers on the flight were not considered close contacts of the infected cases.

“The seats were quite apart and all passengers wore masks. Health care workers and other officers also took sufficient infection control measures to prevent the emergence of a large group of close contacts if some passengers confirmed to be infected,” she said.

That came as the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau announced on Wednesday registration details of the first batch of chartered flights to bring home Hongkongers stranded in Hubei province, epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. The first flights would mainly help those who were stuck in Wuhan, the province’s hard-hit capital.

Only those with Hong Kong identity cards and showing no signs of fever or other infections would be allowed to board, and they would be quarantined for 14 days upon returning to Hong Kong.

In the latest developments in Hong Kong, the 29-year-old domestic helper of a 60-year-old Jockey Club member who was diagnosed on Tuesday is another new case.

Meanwhile, three more people linked to Fook Wai Ching She, a Buddhist worship hall in North Point connected to nine earlier cases, were confirmed or suspected to be infected with the coronavirus.

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They included an 80-year-old man, husband of a 76-year-old woman who was previously confirmed to be infected and had visited the worship hall.

The elderly couple live in the building where the Buddhist hall is located.

A 49-year-old housewife who worked as a cleaning volunteer in the hall was also considered a confirmed case.

The woman, who was admitted to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan, began to develop symptoms such as coughing and sore throat on February 18.

Another confirmed case is a 26-year-old man, who is the son of a 57-year-old woman who visited the temple and was previously confirmed to be infected.

Dr Sara Ho Yuen-ha, the Hospital Authority’s chief manager for patient safety and risk management, said public hospitals would admit and isolate people who had respiratory infection and had been to the Buddhist hall from January 25 to February 25. They would also be tested for the coronavirus.

Among the 89 officially confirmed cases in the city, six more people were discharged in the 24 hours to Wednesday noon, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 24.

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A 96-year-old woman remained critically ill and four others were in a serious condition.

Ho said the initial findings and data of a trial scheme, started by the authority last week, on testing deep throat saliva specimens of people visiting general outpatient clinics and emergency departments would be released in the next few days.

The Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service on Wednesday asked people who had visited South Korea, where more than 1,100 coronavirus cases had been recorded, to defer from donating blood for 28 days from the date of departing the country.

Separately, the authority’s human resources unit sent out a letter to more than 7,000 hospital staff who had joined a strike from February 3 to 7, saying it would be following up on the “absence from duty”.

“Once the Hospital Authority has gathered sufficient information which will include obtaining your explanation for the absence, the Hospital Authority will then consider follow up action,” said the letter, which the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, the strike organiser, posted on its Facebook page.

The letter said the authority reserved its rights in the matter of wages related to an absence of work without authorisation.

The alliance, a union that emerged in December during anti-government protests, said it did not agree with the authority calling the strike an absence from duty. It said it had submitted records of members going on strike to the authority based on attendance taken during the period.

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