Health authorities have called on customers of a Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong’s financial centre to get tested for Covid-19 after a chef was confirmed as infected on Friday.
The city reported three locally transmitted infections among seven cases recorded, as authorities relaxed social-distancing rules for religious gatherings and team sports.
The source could not be traced for two of the local infections, which involved the 33-year-old chef at the Mu-ni by La Bombance restaurant in the upmarket IFC Mall in Central and a 25-year-old nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei. The third local case was linked to an earlier infection.
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Four cases were imported, one each from Germany, Britain, the Philippines and Nepal.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said the risk of the chef spreading the coronavirus to customers was low, but she urged those who visited the restaurant after September 23 to get tested if they felt unwell.
“We do not think the chance of transmission from the chef is very big because he’s responsible for preparing the cooked food, not raw food like sashimi, and does not come into contact with customers,” she told a regular press briefing.
“We still will appeal to the customers who are worried to get tested because we are now distributing [sample] bottles more liberally than before. And also if they have any mild symptoms, do go to seek medical attention.”
The chef last worked on Tuesday but developed a fever last Friday. Thirteen of his colleagues were sent to a quarantine centre as a precaution.
Meanwhile, most samples taken from 100 of the nurse’s colleagues and patients at the hospital returned negative results. Authorities were still waiting on two results.
Six of the nurse’s colleagues were identified as close contacts and had been sent to quarantine.
The infections took the city’s official tally of confirmed cases to 5,104, with 105 related deaths.
Places of worship were allowed to reopen on Friday at half their usual capacity, while the cap on four people meeting for team sports was also lifted at designated grounds. But other measures, such as mandatory mask-wearing in public areas, social-distancing rules in restaurants and groups of not more than four people, would continue for another week, until October 8 at least.
Sports fans arrived early on Friday to play basketball and soccer to make the most of reopened outdoor facilities.
At the Kowloon Mosque in Tsim Sha Tsui, worshippers gathered with social distancing marked by red lines on the floor.
Separately, hundreds of people queued for Ngong Ping 360, a cable car ride which connects Tung Chung with Ngong Ping and offers a panoramic view of Lantau Island, to get some fresh air over the long weekend. Traffic leading to the tourist attraction was congested with private cars and buses, while a long line of people waited to catch a bus home.
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee warned the public to remain vigilant to avoid a rebound of cases.
“Although the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong is stabilising, anti-epidemic measures must focus on preventing imported cases and preparing for the next wave of infections. We cannot relax,” Chan wrote on her official blog.
“I understand that everyone, especially young people, may have ‘anti-epidemic fatigue’ and hope to gather with relatives and friends as soon as possible, but everyone must be patient … It really depends on the cooperation and self-discipline of citizens for social-distancing measures to effectively prevent the spread of the virus in the community.”
She said the winter peak flu season might come with a potential fourth wave of Covid-19 infections and urged the public to get their flu shots through government programmes that were set to launch in stages this month.
Despite a stabilising trend in the coronavirus situation recently, Hong Kong has recorded five locally infected cases without known sources in the past week.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said last week the city had “basically contained” the third Covid-19 wave after a “hard-fought battle” of more than two months. But she warned the risk of transmission remained in the community, pointing to sporadic cases of unknown sources.
Health authorities this week began stepping up inspection of local restaurants and bars ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday to enforce social-distancing measures.
In a raid on Friday at around 6am, police arrested the owner of a bar on Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui along with five staff members on suspicion of violating regulations on pandemic control.
Police said the bar was operating after midnight despite current regulations prohibiting dine-in service between midnight and 4.59am daily.
About 150 customers, including 17 minors, were issued with tickets for violating the city’s ban on groups larger than four people in public areas.
Additional reporting by Fiona Sun