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4 FDWs among 12 infected patients in Laguna City block

Posted on 25 January 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Residents of Flat E, Blk 5 of Laguna City in Kwun Tong will be evacuated

Four foreign domestic workers – three Indonesians and one Filipina – are among the 12 confirmed Covid-19 cases in a Laguna City block which has been partially evacuated due to the possible spread of the virus through the sewage pipes there. Ten of the patients are residents, while two are security guards.

The news came as health officials reported 73 new coronavirus cases today, Jan 25, all but four of them locally acquired. More than half, or 38 of the cases, had unknown sources.

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Of the four imported cases, one was a 44-year-old Filipina who tested positive while in quarantine at Ramada Harbour View Hotel in Sai Ying Pun. The three others were returnees from Belarus, Pakistan, and Dubai.

More than 60 preliminary positive cases were reported, including three nurses from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Dr Lau Ka-hin from the Hospital Authority said the three cases did not appear to be linked, although two of the nurses worked together in the isolation ward, where they looked after Covid-19 patients.

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One of these two also worked in a medical ward, where the third infected nurse worked.

No patient was classified as close contact because the three nurses wore full protective gear while on duty. But a total of 10 medical staff who had meals with the nurses will be quarantined, and the wards where they worked will stop receiving patients.

As three other medical wards had already been closed due to a previous outbreak, the admission of cases at the accident and emergency department will be affected, said Lau. He thus urged those who need medical attention to try going to other hospitals or private health clinics instead.

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“We appeal to Hong Kong citizens to avoid going to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital if they have mild symptoms,” he said.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection again expressed concern over the high proportion of cases with unknown sources, saying they could lead to an exponential increase in infections.

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“I urge the public if they have any mild symptoms, even if they have undergone testing previously and they have a negative result, they should go for testing and seek medical attention as soon as possible,” Chuang said.

Yuen says the virus appears to have spread through the drainage pipes

Earlier, top microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yuen inspected block 5 of Laguna City in Kwun Tong, and announced the evacuation of all residents of Flat E in the block, after finding evidence of “vertical transmission” of the virus.

Infections were found in Flat E units on the 15th, 16th and 17th floors of Block 5. Two other flats in the block have also been found with Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of units affected to five.

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Two security guards at the building have also tested positive for the virus.

Yuen said one of the guards lives on Reclamation Street in Yau Ma Tei where several infections have been recorded, and he could have brought the virus from there to his place of work.

But the virus could also been introduced to the block by an infected guest who attended a family gathering in Flat E on the 16th floor on Jan 9.

The expert said the virus might have been transmitted through the drains to the other floors.

There are now a total of 10,159 coronavirus cases in Hong Kong. Two confirmed cases passed away in the past 24 hours, raising the related death toll in public hospitals to 166.

A total of 822 confirmed patients are being treated in 24 public hospitals and the treatment facility at AsiaWorld-Expo. Of these, 35 are in critical condition, 34 are serious, and 759 are in stable condition.

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Filipina detained for money laundering and overstaying

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By Vir B. Lumicao 

The Filipina is accused of using her HSBC bank account to launder dirty money

A Filipina former domestic helper is facing charges of money laundering and overstaying her visa in Eastern Court following her arrest in November last year for her suspected involvement in moving illicit money through her ATM account.

Kris Hope Vargas returned to Eastern Court today, Jan 25, for an update on her case. No plea was taken.

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She is charged with “dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of indictable offence” (legalese for money laundering) and “breach of condition of stay” for overstaying.

In her previous appearance before Magistrate Bina Chainrai on Dec 8, the prosecution sought more time for the police to obtain documents from Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp and enquiry replies from the Immigration Department.

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Today, the prosecution said Immigration records showed the defendant was allowed to stay in Hong Kong until Mar 10 last year, but had overstayed her visa.

She was arrested on Nov 20 for the money laundering offense. The prosecution said, however, that police investigators are still awaiting some documents and records of ATM card transactions on Vargas’ HSBC account.

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The amount of money involved was not mentioned.

The prosecutor asked for a four-week adjournment for further legal advice, and to await bank documents that would show where various sums of money transferred from the defendant’s account had been moved.

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The defense lawyer applied for bail for his client, saying Vargas could raise her bail offer to $2,000 from $1,500 previously.

But the prosecution objected to the granting of bail, citing the high risk that the defendant would abscond.

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Chainrai reminded the prosecution that Vargas had been in custody since Nov 20, but still refused the bail application.

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HK grants $9.7million cash aid for Phl typhoon relief operation

Posted on No comments

 By The SUN 

Typhoon Vamco (Ulysses) caused extensive flooding across Luzon in mid-November

The Hong Kong government has approved the disbursements of four grants totaling $9.7 million from the Disaster Relief Fund to help typhoon victims in the Philippines.

A statement released in the government information website today, Jan 25, said the money will go to four charities that undertake typhoon relief operations in the Philippines.

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These are Oxfam Hong Kong, which will get $2.614 million; Plan International Hong Kong, $1.951 million; Hong Kong Red Cross, $1.825 million; and Save the Children Hong Kong, $3.31 million.

The money will be used to provide hygiene kits, household kits and education kits, as well as water purification items and shelter materials for about 57,750 victims.

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No particular typhoon was mentioned, but the statement said the one for which the grant was released had affected around 3.3 million people in the Philippines.

The county was hit by two massive typhoons in November last year, including Super Typhoon Goni, which swept through Metro Manila and the Bicol Region in the first week of the month, and was quickly followed by Atsani.

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But the more disastrous one was Vamco, which caused the worst flooding in the country for years, mostly throughout the main island of Luzon, including Metro Manila.

Hardest hit by Super Typhoon Goni was the Bicol Region

The typhoon grant was extended on the advice of the Disaster Relief Fund Advisory Committee.

“The Committee hoped that the grants would facilitate the provision of timely relief to the victims and help them restore their normal living,” said the statement.

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Earlier, another relief package worth about $500,000 was given to agencies helping typhoon victims in the Philippines, bringing the total amount extended to the Philippines to $10.225 million.

“As the targeted localities of relief agencies or the types of relief items to be distributed are different, there will be no overlapping of resources,” added the statement.

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The relief agencies through which the donations will be coursed will be asked to submit evaluation reports and audited accounts on where the money went, after their relief projects have been completed. 

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Filipina DH accused of stealing nearly $800k from employer’s bank account

Posted on No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The Filipina is alleged to have made 200 withdrawals from employer's account since Nov 2019

A Filipina domestic helper was charged in Eastern Court today, Jan 25, for allegedly stealing $768,000 from her male employer’s bank account over a period of 14 months.

The defendant, June Jennie Garaza, appeared before Magistrate Bina Chainrai following her arrest last weekend.

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The prosecution said Garaza, 33, made more than 200 unauthorized ATM withdrawals between Nov 26, 2019 and Jan 21 this year from the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp account of her employer, Stephen Peepels.

The prosecutor did not say how the employer found out about the theft.

She asked for an eight-week adjournment of the case, saying she was still awaiting records of the ATM transactions from the bank, and seek legal advice.

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The prosecution said it was opposing bail due to the seriousness of the offense, but the defense lawyer said Garaza had no bail application.

Magistrate Chainrai scheduled the next hearing for Mar 22 and ordered the defendant remanded in custody.

The case is being heard at Eastern Court but will likely be transferred to a  higher court

The offense is the latest in a series of big theft cases allegedly pulled off by Filipina helpers at their employers’ expense over the past two years.

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In the largest such case so far, domestic helper Carmelita Nones is facing charges of stealing about 200 jewelry pieces, gold bars and watches worth a total of $14.6 million from her employers in Deepwater Bay between Jun 17, 2018 and Sept 5, 2019.

Her niece, friend and sister are accused of pawning or keeping the alleged stolen jewelry pieces for her. The case has been transferred to the Court of First Instance and will be heard on Mar 8.

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The second-biggest theft case is that lodged against Edarlyn Emperador, 50. She was arrested by police on Aug 7 last year for allegedly stealing $860,000 worth of watches and jewelry from her female employer in Homantin, Kowloon over 10 months.

The next hearing of the case is set for Jan 27 at the District Court.

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Jordan lockdown eased as 76 new infections reported

Posted on 24 January 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung leads inspection of lockdown area

Hong Kong authorities have let coronavirus-free residents go in and out of the lockdown area in Jordan after testing more than 7,000 people there, as health officials reported 76 new cases today, Jan 24. Four of them were Indonesian domestic helpers.

Home Affairs Secretary Caspar Tsui said in a press briefing the lockdown declaration would be revoked this midnight to enable residents who tested negative would be able to resume their normal activities.

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“After 6pm today, that is now, we allow all those who have taken the test, as long as the results are negative, and for those who are wearing wristbands, these…residents can now go in and out of the restricted area via designated exits to minimize the impact,” he said.

Tsui said the government will seriously follow up and enhance the anti-epidemic campaign and officers will continue to work in the restricted area.


He said those who were in the restricted area for two hours in the past 14 days, even though they were outside the zone when the lockdown was imposed at 4am on Saturday, must go for a test as soon as possible as a responsible individual.

He warned those who violate the restriction and mandatory testing declaration that they face a fine of $25,000 and six months in jail.

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The government imposed the 48-hour lockdown in an area with about 55 residential buildings in Jordan as it battled to control the spread of Covid-19 among its residents.

Secretary for Food and Health, Prof Sofia Chan, said that as of 3pm today, more than 7,000 residents had taken the compulsory test in 51 mobile testing stations. She said more than 80 persons were tested in door-to-door sorties in the restricted area.

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Chan said the tests in the restricted area accounted for 13 positive cases today, or 0.17% of the positive rate. She said four cases came from the same family and two came from another family. Seven other cases came from other households.

Preliminary positive patients were sent to public hospitals and contact tracing was under way, Chan said.

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Answering a reporter’s query, Chan said the lockdown showed that the government’s strategy of compulsory testing and testing within a small area with the restriction of movement was very effective in identifying, detecting and isolating the cases.

Chan did not rule imposing another lockdown where it is need in future, saying this measure, as well as the issuance of compulsory testing notice, are effective measures. 

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Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said in an earlier media briefing the 76 new patients included 23 from Yau Tsim Mong, 11 of whom were from the Jordan restricted zone.

The new cases brought Hong Kong’s total Covid-19 tally to 10,085, health officials said.

Four of these were imported cases, and they were all Indonesian female helpers, aged 23 to 34, one of whom arrived via Singapore on Jan 22. Three others flew in on Jan 10 and tested positive on their 12th day in quarantine.

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Of the new cases, 27 had unknown origin and 45 were linked to other cases, Chuang said.

Dr Linda Yu of the Hospital Authority said as of 9am today, public hospitals received 77 positive cases in the past 24 hours, and discharged a total of 9 034 patients with confirmed or probable infection. 

A total of 775 confirmed patients are still in 24 public hospitals and at the AsiaWorld community treatment facility. Among them, 35 are in critical condition, 35 in serious condition and the remaining 705 in stable condition.

Yu also announced the death of a 72-year-old male patient with chronic illness who was admitted to Kwong Wah Hospital on Dec 24 last year after testing positive for Covid-19.

Police were highly visible in the lockdown area

Earlier today, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung inspected the restricted area in Jordan.

Briefing reporters afterwards, Cheung replied to a query that he was confident of lifting the restrictions by 6am tomorrow, based on the on testing of residents in the area.

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“We have confidence that we should be able to do it (ending the lockdown) because we have already done screening for 7,000 people yesterday in terms of testing,” Cheung said. 

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