Hong Kong’s private doctors were urged on Thursday to be alert to patients with possible Covid-19 symptoms and test them, as more than 60 per cent of infections recorded in the past week have been locally transmitted.
Health experts had debated over whether patients with mild symptoms should be forced to receive coronavirus tests, with a rising trend of local cases recently, on top of an infection scare linked to an orchestra this week.
On Thursday, health authorities confirmed Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra bass clarinettist Lorenzo Antonio Iosco was among 12 new cases.
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“I urge all private doctors and health care facilities in Hong Kong to raise their index of suspicion, and provide Covid-19 testing to patients with symptoms,” said Dr Chui Tak-yi, under secretary for food and health, referring to a doctor’s initial impression of the likelihood of disease in a person.
“The index of suspicion does not only apply to clinical presentation,” Chui said, adding that when recording patient history, the focus should also be on whether an individual might have had contact with others with similar symptoms, or a confirmed or suspected case.
“In that situation, I think the clinician can also order the test for that particular individual.”
Chui cited cases of Covid-19 patients seeking help from private doctors after showing symptoms, but who were not tested during their clinic visits.
He said fever, dry cough and sore throat were among symptoms experienced by those with Covid-19, though the signs could also be present for people with the flu or common cold.
Between October 8 and 14, 37 of 58 cases – or 64 per cent – recorded in the city were from local transmission. Nine per cent of cases over that week were from unknown sources.
Hong Kong’s Covid-19 tally stood at 5,213, with 105 related deaths.
The temporary testing centres set up in Wan Chai, Kwai Tsing and Kowloon City would continue to operate until Friday, while one in Yau Tsim Mong would run until Sunday.
A mobile testing truck would also visit nightlife districts this weekend to distribute specimen bottles and encourage people to get tested.
The truck would cover Kennedy Town on Friday, Prince Edward on Saturday and SoHo district on Sunday.
Among the four local cases reported on Thursday, two were from unknown sources, including clarinettist Iosco, 35. He had performed with the orchestra in the concert hall at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui last Friday and Saturday.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said there were some 700 audience members in each of the performances. She said while audiences were not considered close contacts, they were advised to take note of their health and get tested if they did not feel well.
Among some 90 orchestra members that have been quarantined, none have tested positive so far. Two others not within the quarantined group have left the city, including one to France, before their infections were identified.
Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai, who attended the concert with city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last Friday, told the Post on Thursday morning that he had tested negative. Lam’s office said on Wednesday her test results showed she was not infected.
The Post reported on Wednesday that the government was looking into requiring musicians to be tested before performing, and would not rule out subsidising screening costs.
Without commenting on the progress of internal discussions on the proposal, Chui said venue operators or troupes could consider arranging tests for performers.
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts also said some of its students and faculty members had attended the philharmonic concerts on Friday and Saturday, but none had been identified as close contacts by the Centre for Health Protection.
The other untraceable case on Thursday was a 73-year-old man who lives in Flamingo Garden in Fei Ngo Shan. He is a member of the Kowloon Cricket Club in Jordan and had visited the place during the virus’ incubation period, but not when he became infectious. No close contacts were identified, but health authorities have distributed about 200 sample bottles for staff and members at the club as a precaution.
The patient also dined at Zuma, a Japanese restaurant at Landmark shopping centre in Central last Saturday.
The two other local infections were family members of previous cases.
The eight imported cases on Thursday comprised four arrivals from Nepal, two from France, and one each from Indonesia and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, authorities announced that starting from Thursday, travellers arriving from Shandong province via the city’s land border control points would be given specimen containers for Covid-19 testing. The province in eastern China recently marked a rebound in infections.
All land arrivals from the mainland were previously only required to undergo a 14-day quarantine but not a virus test.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong officials study compulsory Covid-19 testing for performing musicians as Tropical Storm Nangka delays confirmation of cases
- Carrie Lam Covid-19 exposure fears dismissed after member of Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra infected, 100 musicians quarantined