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UK arrivals with coronavirus variant rise to 8, while new cases drop to 53

29 December 2020

By The SUN 

Christmas rush in TST: Officials say people should stop socializing during the holidays

Hong Kong health officials urged the public today to avoid social gatherings during the New Year holiday as they expressed concern about a silent transmission chain that has led to a big rise in coronavirus cases in recent days.

They issued the call at a press briefing today, Dec 29, as they reported 53 new Covid-19 cases, all but three of them locally acquired.

The officials also said that five more returnees from the United Kingdom (or Britain) were found to have the highly infectious Covid-19 variant, pushing the total number of carriers up to eight.

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They said the discovery of the variant strain in the patients was made through a genetic analysis of samples taken from those who arrived from Britain between Dec 1 and 20, by teams from the Hong Kong University and Polytechnic University.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Food and Health, Dr Chui Tak-yi, noted that the rising number of Covid-19 cases with unknown sources, which he said had accounted for 35% of the total cases in the last two weeks.

He said although the number of cases has slightly declined, the drop is slower than in previous waves.

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“Friday will be the start of the New Year holiday. The government would like to appeal to the public to not arrange or not participate in unnecessary gatherings, wear a mask and observe all the other measures,” Chui said.

For those who don’t feel well or at high risk, they should go see a doctor, he said.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection reported that among the newly confirmed cases was an Indonesian domestic helper who tested positive after finishing her mandatory 14-day quarantine.

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The Indonesian woman arrived on Dec 11 and spent her quarantine in a hotel in Causeway Bay until Dec 24. The next day she went for a physical check-up in Mong Kok, then proceeded to her employment agency in Tseung Kwan O.

She was taken to the Winland 800 Hotel in Tsing Yi, and on Dec 27, collected her second test bottle. She tested positive in this test.

Chuang said that while the patient’s source of infection is unknown, she was still considered an imported case.

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Two arrivals from South Africa before Hong Kong banned flights from that country on Dec 25, were the two other imported cases.

The Indonesian helper and 2 returnees from South Africa were the 3 new imported cases

Chuang said 23 of the new cases were women and 30 were men with ages ranging from 6 months to 80 years. The new cases brought to 8,725 the tally of positive cases in the city.

“Of the local cases, 14 have untraceable sources while the other 36 cases are related to previous cases,” said Chuang. She said there were about 40 preliminary positive cases.

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There was a new case from the Nethersole Nursing Home for the Elderly on Kai Yan St in Kowloon Bay, where there were 13 close contacts of a previous case. Their samples were taken and one returned a positive result yesterday, Chuang said. She said 43 other residents need to go to compulsory testing.

She said three preliminary cases were detected at Fung Chak House, Choi Wan Estate. Two were staying in one unit and the third in a different unit. All three had symptoms.

Chui said the government will lower its threshold for mandatory testing to better fight the spread of the coronavirus. He said mandatory tests will now be ordered if two unlinked cases are detected in one building, down from the present four.

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In this particular case, he said those who were at the building between Dec 15 and 28 for more than 2 hours will have to take a compulsory test by Dec 31. He said a mobile sample collection center is stationed at a nearby park next to Fung Chak House.

“We are very much concerned about the invisible transmission chain that may pose a risk of an outbreak of clusters. Now the government has subsidized the HKU to do a study on the sewage pipe system and it found that the Fung Chak pipe samples continued to show positive test results,” Chui said.

He said the samples could have come from places in the estate where there are cases of Covid-19.

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Meanwhile, Dr Sara Ho, a chief manager at the Hospital Authority, said that as of 9am today, 90 confirmed Covid-19 patients were discharged from hospital in the last 24 hours. So far, 7,616 patients have been released.

She said a total of 879 confirmed patients are currently in 23 public hospitals and a community treatment facility. Of this number, 47 patients are in critical condition, 60 are in serious condition and the remaining 772 are in stable condition.

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Ho also reported two new Covid-related deaths, which pushed up the fatality toll in public hospitals to 139.

The first to succumb was a 71-year-old female patient who died at 4:32am in United Christian Hospital. The second was a 59-year-old male patient with chronic illness who passed on at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital at 12.05pm today. 

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