New coronavirus infections in Hong Kong fell to seven on Saturday, the fewest in more than two months, as the number of residents who have signed up for the mass testing programme surpassed a million.
The city has seen the current Covid-19 third wave tapering off in recent weeks, with daily cases falling into the low double and single-digit figures.
All of the latest infections were locally transmitted, among them a guest at Metropark Hotel in Mong Kok, where four cases have already been found.
Three of the new infections were untraced, including a 62-year-old car mechanic who works at a garage in To Kwa Wan.
The two others were detected through the mass screening effort, which aims to break hidden transmission links, taking to 10 the number of infected people the programme has uncovered. By 8pm, 1.06 million people had registered online for the free, voluntary testing and 439,000 specimens had been tested.
“We have seen some unknown cases detected through this [mass testing] programme and this helps us to try to stop the chain of transmission,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch. “We have to wait until the end of the programme … to do more analysis.”
The two latest cases detected through mass screening were a 60-year-old air-conditioning repairman who works on Nga Tsin Long Road in Kowloon City and lives on Argyle Street, and a 39-year-old Filipino domestic helper who resides in Yuen Long with her employer.
Chuang said the helper had gatherings with other Filipinos on August 29 and 30, and they would be tested. The two were screened at Kowloon City Sports Centre and Chiu Lut Sau Memorial Secondary School in Yuen Long, respectively.
“These [facilities] do not need any special measures as these testing centres should already have infection control measures in place,” Chuang said. “Additionally, each facility is cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day. We already expected that infected people would go to these centres.”
Saturday’s figure was the lowest since July 3, when five cases were recorded. The city’s coronavirus tally stands at 4,857 confirmed cases, with 94 related deaths.
One of the latest infected was a 64-year-old man who works as a security guard at Transport City Building in Tai Wai. His wife was earlier confirmed infected after submitting her sample through the mass screening programme. The guard had also come into contact in August with a previously confirmed patient living in the building.
Between 10 and 20 preliminary cases were recorded on Saturday, including a 25-year-old pregnant Pakistani woman who underwent quarantine at a hotel for two weeks until Thursday after arriving from Pakistan via Doha. The woman, who is in her third trimester, went to Tuen Mun Hospital the next day for a prenatal check-up and was tested as a precautionary measure. She lives in Ko Po Tsuen in Yuen Long.
One preliminary case involved a 54-year-old detainee at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre who attended a hearing at West Kowloon Court when he started to display symptoms, including a high fever, and was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei.
He was originally admitted to Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre on August 21 but moved to the detention centre on Thursday. The patient had worn a surgical mask while entering and exiting the different locations, a government statement said.
Several hundred specimen bottles will be handed to inmates and staff at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre and the detention facility. A detainee who shared a cell with the 54-year-old is undergoing medical surveillance but is not showing any symptoms of the disease.
Chuang said it was up to the Security Bureau to decide whether to screen all inmates. Currently, new detainees are quarantined away from existing prisoners.
Residents can expect to receive another free, reusable CuMask+ this month, according to Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit Wing-hang.
“We are thinking of distributing the second mask in the upcoming one or two weeks for Hong Kong residents to prepare themselves, because the pandemic may fluctuate in the winter,” he said.
Sit earlier told a radio programme the attendance rate for the tests after registration was about 90 per cent, which exceeded government expectations. But the minister said about 180 complaints had been made, with some people reporting their identities had been used by someone else.
“For example, perhaps some complainants did not know their relatives had helped them register … and there were more than 90 cases which we feel might have involved identity theft,” Sit said. “We will follow this up seriously, and pass the cases and related information to the police.”
The minister also said a health code system, which would allow residents to freely travel to Macau and mainland China’s Guangdong province if they tested negative for the virus, would be ready to launch once the health crisis stabilised.
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