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Missing link in variant cluster appears to have been found

Posted on 11 May 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

The Sham Shui Po flat in this building is where the variant was caught by at least 3 people

A relative of the Filipina girlfriend of an Indian man from Dubai identified as the index case in a recent cluster outbreak of coronavirus variant has tested positive for immunoglobulin G, indicating the person had a recent Covid-19 infection.

This was discovered by experts from the Centre for Health Protection as they continued their investigation into the case of the Filipina identified in a Kowloon City Court hearing yesterday as Victoria Marie Guadiz, a 31-year-old clinic receptionist.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

Guadiz and her boyfriend, Indian engineer Syed Mohamed Rizvi, are facing separate charges of lying to authorities on their earlier whereabouts after being found to carry the South African variant.

The CHP said a probe on Guadiz revealed that one of her close contacts who hosted a gathering on Apr 18 at 37 Fuk Wing St in Sham Shui Po, had tested positive for immunoglobulin G, an antibody.

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The CHP said the presence of the antibody indicated the person had been infected recently with Covid-19.

The infection appears to supply the missing link between the transmissions at the house in Sham Shui Po and the flat of Guadiz’s mother in Fung Hing House of Hing Wah (II) Estate in Chai Wan where an earlier gathering was held on Apr 13.

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According to earlier information from CHP, Guadiz and Rizvi attended the gathering at the Chai Wan flat where the woman’s mother lives alone.

Three of those who attended the Chai Wan party held another gathering at the Sham Shui Po flat on Apr 18, and invited three Filipina helpers who all later tested positive for the variant. According to CHP in an earlier briefing, Guadiz's brother, wife and child live in the Sham Shui Po flat.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

One of the helpers who lives in Tung Chung, passed on the infection to her 10-month-old employer and her female employer.

Guadiz’s mother also tested positive for the variant after being taken to hospital with a fever.


Ramada Grand Hotel in TST where Rizvi spent his quarantine

Including Rizvi and Guadiz, eight people  have now been linked to the variant cluster.

Rizvi, who arrived in Hong Kong from Dubai on Mar 19, is tagged as the index patient, and experts say he must have caught the variant from the hotel where he spent his 21-day quarantine.

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Meanwhile, only one imported infection was reported today by the CHP, involving an Indonesian helper who arrived on May 9 aboard a Cathay flight CX798 from Jakarta.

Samples taken from her at the airport showed she was positive of Covid-19, but did not carry the more infectious N501Y variant.

Her case took the city’s total tally to 11,813.

About five preliminary positive cases were also reported.

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Posted on No comments


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Wear red to protest ‘discriminatory’ Covid-19 tests, migrant leaders say

Posted on No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

AMCB joined local activists on May 9 in protesting the mandatory tests 

Migrant leaders are calling on their fellow foreign domestic workers to wear red this Sunday to show their anger at the Hong Kong government’s decision to require all of them to get tested for Covid-19 again.

The call was made by officers of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body in a hurriedly arranged press conference today, May 11, to show anger at the government’s move. The color is meant to stand for R(resist), E (exclusion) and D (discrimination), says the group.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

Chief Executive Carrie Lam earlier announced the second round of tests from May 15 to 30, describing it as a precaution to ensure the more infectious strain of the virus does not spread in the community.

AMCB spokesperson Dolores Balladares blasted the move as a “clear singling out and a clear discrimination” against migrant domestic workers.

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“Are they thinking that we are virus carriers?,” Balladares asked.

She also criticized the poor handling of the previous round of tests from May 1 to 9, which led to long queues at testing centers on the first two days of the exercise, as they fell on a statutory holiday and a Sunday, respectively.


Balladares says singling FDWs for the tests suggest that they are seen as virus carriers

A record 52,000 took the Covid test on May 2, but many of those who had it that day complained of lining up for hours, during which they got hungry and were exposed to the elements.

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Anticipating another deluge, AMCB leaders armed with bottles of water and biscuits, toured testing sites on May 9, the last day for complying with the order, but found many of them near-empty.

It turned out most of FDWs had already taken the test in the days before. By the end of the nine-day compulsory testing, 340,000 FDWs were found to have complied with the order, while a further 40,000 were exempted for being fully vaccinated.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Despite their near-full compliance, the FDW leaders are angered that the government is again telling them to take tests.

“This is ridiculous and unacceptable,” said Balladares.

Sringatin asks why migrants are not consulted on a matter that affects them the most

Another AMCB leader, Sringatin, asked why they, who are the ones directly affected by the order, have not been consulted by the government beforehand.

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“Why not consult migrant domestic workers?,” Sringatin asked. “Why not (test) employers and their family members? What are they trying to prove? Why punish us (alone)?”

She called on fellow migrant workers to wear red on Sunday in a show of protest over the government’s imposition.

But non-compliance is out of the question, as a fixed penalty ticket of $5,000 is issued to violators. They could also lose their jobs if they are prosecuted for resisting the order.

HK to hold new round of mandatory testing for FDWs

Posted on No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

CE Lam admits the govt is 'like working in the dark' as she announced a new round of tests for FDWs

The Hong Kong government is set to hold another round of mandatory testing for all foreign domestic workers in the city starting on Saturday, May 15, until May 30. As before, all those who are fully vaccinated are exempt.

This was disclosed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in a press conference earlier today, May 11, ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting.
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Lam said the move is a precaution for any possible outbreaks of infectious Covid-19 variants, but conceded the government was “like working in the dark when determining appropriate public health measures.”

Taking note of the chaotic implementation of the earlier round of testing, which was done with only a day’s notice and conducted over nine days, she said the government decided to extend the testing period this time.

Those who need not go to for tests are those who had their second dose of a vaccine at least 14 days before the end of the testing period, or on or before May 17.

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The top official noted that 340,000 helpers had themselves tested during the initial round (with a further 40,000 being exempt for having taken two doses of the vaccine on or before Apr 25). Three of those tested were found infected with the mutant N501Y strain of the coronavirus.

She reiterated that the government was not pushing through with a plan to also require all FDWs to submit themselves to compulsory vaccination, after it was met with a lot of protests.

CG Tejada says it is 'illogical' to require FDWs to get tested and not their employers

Consul General Raly Tejada said he immediately voiced out his concerns about the new round of testing when he and his Indonesian counterpart, Ricky Suhendar, were informed about it during separate meetings with Labour Secretary Law Chi-kwong late yesterday.

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Congen Tejada said he questioned the necessity of another mandatory test, citing the “near-perfect compliance” of FDWs to the initial round.

“I also stated that I find it illogical to not include the employers who are in the same household. They replied that it was a question of logistics to test another 1 million people (employers),” he said.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

“I did not agree to the idea of another mandatory test, saying that the government was not even prepared to meet the high demand of the first exercise. Secretary Law said that they learned from the last experience and will make the second round of mandatory testing more efficient and convenient.”

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Law reportedly assured both diplomats that employers will be asked to make appointments for their workers so nobody will have to rush, and the overcrowding that happened previously at testing centers will not happen again.

But Congen Tejada warned that the new round of mandatory testing would not go down well with the Filipino community.

 

 


4 FDHs test positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine

Posted on 10 May 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

The 4 infected FDHs arrived on various dates last month

Four foreign domestic helpers, three from Indonesia and one from India, were the only confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported in Hong Kong today, May 10. No one was found to carry the coronavirus variant.

It marked the second straight day that no new local cases were found, and continued a streak of single-digit infections in the city.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

According to staff at the Centre for Health Protection, the Indian DH arrived on Apr 18 via flight UK 6397, just two days before Hong Kong imposed a flight ban on India, Pakistan and the Philippines, which remains to this day.

The 36-year-old woman was on her 19th day in quarantine at Grand City Hotel in Sai Ying Pun when she was found infected.

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The three others are all Indonesian women who arrived in Hong Kong on different dates.

The first to arrive is 25 years old, and flew in on Apr 23 aboard CX 2780. She developed symptoms on May 3 while in quarantine at Regal Oriental Hotel in Kowloon City.

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The second is 38 years old and arrived via CX 798 on Apr 25. She was asymptomatic and was staying at Vela Hotel in Wan Chai when she tested positive on her 12th day sample.

The third is 36 years old and arrived on Apr 30 via CX 2780. She tested positive on her 7th day sample while staying at Silka Seaview Hotel in Yau Ma Tei.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

They took the number of cases in Hong Kong to 11,812.

A top microbiologist says HK is lucky that the variant that spread recently was not virulent 

Meanwhile, a microbiologist from the University of Hong Kong has told RTHK that the city has been lucky to have escaped an outbreak of a more virulent strain of the coronavirus.

Siddhart Sridhar was referring to the a cluster of infections linked to an Indian man who flew in from Dubai and apparently caught the variant first found in South Africa during his hotel quarantine.

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Seven people in Hong Kong caught the mutant virus from him, including his girlfriend and her mother, three domestic helpers and an employer and her 10-month-old baby.

Sridhar said wearing masks probably helped, but warned Hong Kong may not be as lucky next time.

He said authorities should remain cautious, since the virus is now seen to have a longer incubation period. He also said the coronavirus is here to stay, and vaccination is the only way out of the pandemic.

Mandatory tests on 340k FDWs show no silent spread, high takeup for vaccines

Posted on No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

A record 52,000 FDWs were tested on May 2, the second day of compulsory testing

It appears foreign domestic workers have fully complied with the Hong Kong government’s order for them to get tested, judging from the data released late on Sunday, the last day for complying with mandatory testing.

According to a government statement, nearly 340,000 FDWs had taken the test while around 40,000 others had received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine 14 days before the deadline, and were thus exempt.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

The total figure far exceeds the government’s initial estimate that 370,000 helpers were due to take the required test between May 1 and 9, as directed by health officials.

It also shows the FDW population having a higher take-up for the vaccine (at 10.5%) than the local population.

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According to the latest figures from the government, only about 500,000 of the 6.55 million eligible residents have taken the two jabs, or just 7.6% overall.

In the statement, Hong Kong officials thanked FDWs and their employers for complying with the order issued on Apr 30, amid unfounded fears that a silent transmission of the dreaded South African variant was spreading among them.

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In a press conference held on that day, FDWs were called a “high risk” group since they supposedly gather in large numbers during their day-off, and then return to their employers’ houses where they take care of the elderly or young children.

It turned out that a Filipina helper in Tung Chung who was identified as the first carrier of a variant from an unknown source, had acquired it indirectly from an Indian man who had just arrived from Dubai and was infected during his hotel quarantine.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

After the massive testing that was held over just nine days, only three migrant workers, all of them Filipinas, tested positive for Covid-19, but the feared “silent transmission” among them was not found.

FDWs lined up for hours to get tested in compliance with the govt order

They included two Filipinas who were linked to the Indian returnee, and a third whose case was classified as “possibly local” because she had recently arrived from Manila, and was found to carry antibodies, suggesting an old infection. 

According to the government statement, from May 1 until 6pm on May 9, nearly 340 000 FDWs had been tested at 21 community testing centres (CTCs) and mobile specimen collection stations or submitted deep throat saliva specimen.

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 “Moreover, it is estimated that around 40,000 FDHs have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine,” said the statement.

The government also defended the mandatory testing for FDHs, which had been assailed by migrant leaders as discriminatory. 

"For local cases with unknown sources of infection involving mutant strains, the Government has to be decisive in adopting swiftly stringent testing and quarantine measures, with an aim to cutting the transmission chains as soon as possible. Otherwise, the whole society will have to bear significant consequence when there is a major outbreak,” said the statement.

It also said that during free voluntary testing offered to FDHs between December last year until the end of February this year, only 34,000 took up the offer, or less than 10 percent of their total number.

The government’s announced plan of compelling all FDHs to submit proof of vaccination when applying for visa renewal has been withdrawn amid a public backlash.

Indian man in variant outbreak faces new charge, denied bail

Posted on No comments

 By Vir B. Lumicao 

The accused inside a police van as  he arrived at Kowlon City Court  (SCMP photo)

An Indian engineer identified as the index patient in the recent spread of the coronavirus variant was told that he faces an additional charge of giving false information to an Immigration officer when he appeared in Kowloon City court today, May 10.

Syed Mohammed Rizvi, 29, appeared before Magistrate Ada Yim on a charge of lying to a medical officer when providing information about his whereabouts between leaving his hotel quarantine and being found to carry the variant on Apr 16.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

He was supposed to appear with his Filipina girlfriend, Victoria Marie A. Guadiz, 31, who is accused of failing to give information to an authorized officer, but she was reportedly taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital this morning with fever.

The prosecutor said Guadiz, a receptionist at a medical clinic in Central, could be discharged by Thursday. Yim said that in that case, the defendant should be called back to court on Friday so the charge could be read to her.

 
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The magistrate also ordered Rizvi remanded in custody until Jul 2, citing the severity of the charges against him, and his lack of family ties in Hong Kong. She took note of the prosecutor's statement that the defendant would be charged with the more serious immigration offense at the next hearing.

The prosecutor told the court that Rizvi arrived from Dubai on Mar 19 and was released from a 21-day quarantine on Apr 8. He then went to live with Guadiz in a flat in Parkes Building on Jordan Road.

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On Apr 16, he was found to carry a coronavirus variant. When interviewed by a nurse at the hospital where he was taken about his whereabouts on Apr 10-11, he reportedly said he just went around Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui, as well as Cheung Chau.

On Apr 28, after a Filipina domestic worker in Tung Chung was found to carry a variant identical to his, Rizvi admitted he and Guadiz visited Citygate mall on Apr 11 and dined in a restaurant elsewhere in Tung Chung. They also went for a meal in Discovery Bay.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Later it emerged that the pair had also been to several places, said the prosecutor. These included a visit to Tong Fuk village on Apr 10, after which they spent the night at Novotel hotel in Tung Chung.

“Further, they visited D2’s (Guadiz) family on Apr 13 for a gathering,” said the prosecutor.

The prosecutor said that they are considering laying further charges of giving false information to immigration officers “on each defendant.”

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Rizvi allegedly provided “false information about his contacts and whereabouts” when interviewed by an immigration officer. No further details were given but he was given a copy of the particulars of the charge.

In opposing bail, the prosecution said the defendant lacked local ties. Although a Hong Kong ID card holder, he is not a permanent resident and was merely visiting.

Thousands of people were tested in Tung Chung where 3 residents were infected with the variant  

She also said that because of Rizvi’s false information, more than 1,000 people residing in a housing block had to be sent to quarantine.

Eight people found to carry the South African variant had been linked to Rizvi, who is believed to have been infected during his 21-day quarantine at Ramada Grand in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The mini-cluster includes, apart from the two, the helper in Tung Chung, her employer and 10-month-old ward; two Filipina domestic helpers who attended a gathering hosted by Guadiz’s brother; as well as her mother.

More than 2,000 residents of at least four housing blocks were moved to quarantine centers until the direct link among the eight infections was uncovered.

Rizvi pleaded to be allowed bail, saying he had two uncles in Hong Kong with whom he could live while waiting for his next court appointment. He also promised to surrender his passport and report to police regularly if he is granted bail.

However, when Magistrate Yim asked him where he stayed after being released from hospital, Rizvi said he stayed with a friend in Jordan.

He said he always stayed with his uncles whenever he came to Hong Kong because they were his family, but he had to live in his friend’s flat in Jordan because he was planning to return to Dubai and had left his luggage there.

The prosecution said police are still making further enquiry and applied to obtain CCTV footages from the shops that Rizvi and his girlfriend visited.

Rizvi said he needs a lawyer but Yim replied he does not qualify for the Duty Lawyer Service so he would need to find a private counsel.

The magistrate set the trial from Jul 2 to 7 and told the defendant to engage a lawyer.

Yim also told Rizvi he could apply for bail again on May 18, during his bail review in the same court. Alternatively he could file a bail application at the Court of First Instance.

 

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