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Food hooks in hotel may have caused South African variant to spread

20 April 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

'S' hooks used to deliver food boxes to guests is believed to be behind virus spread

“S” hooks used to deliver food to people quarantined at the Ramada Hong Kong Grand Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui may have caused a mutated form of the coronavirus to spread among at least three people quarantined there.

This was disclosed today, Apr 20, by Dr Chuang Shuk-wan of the Centre for Health Protection during the regular press briefing on the latest coronavirus situation in Hong Kong.


Chuang reported eight additional Covid-19 cases classified as three imported, four local, and one unclassified, referring to a 56-year-old woman who was on home quarantine after arriving from Fujian province.

The CHP official said that investigations into the case of the 29-year-old man classified as the first local case found to have the N501Y variant showed he could have been part of a cross-contamination that occurred at Ramada TST where he stayed for his 21-day quarantine.


Two other patients who had stayed on the same floor of the hotel during the time the Indian man was there were also found to have an almost identical genetic sequencing of the South African variant he carried.

Both patients were foreign domestic helpers, one a Filipina, and the other, Indonesian. One of them stayed in a room next door to the man, the other farther down the corridor.

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As there were no signs that the virus could have spread through the hotel air conditioning system or the water pipes, Chuang said investigators concluded the virus could have spread through the hooks used for food delivery.

These “S” hooks were reportedly used to hang plastic bags containing the food delivered to guests, and which they also used to return lunch boxes used after each meal.

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“We suspected that the hooks were the source of cross infection,’ Chuang said.

She also disclosed that around 10 guests who had stayed on the same floor of the hotel since January had been found to have the variant. Experts are now doing genome sequencing on these cases to see if they were part of one big cluster.


Since this discovery, all hotels have been told to stop using the hooks for delivering food to guests, she added.

Among the local cases is an Indonesian DH who had quarantined at Ramada Grand

Among those who had stayed in Ramada TST at about the same time as the man from Dubai, but on a different floor, is a 29-year-old Indonesian FDH  who is among four local cases reported today.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong 

The Indonesian arrived on Mar 20, and after ending her 21-day quarantine, had moved into her employer’s house in Yau Tong. She was found infected on Apr 18, after submitting to compulsory testing.

The same transmission mode is suspected to have caused the virus to spread among three guests at Ramada Grand View in North Point earlier in March.


In this case, the virus found in a couple who flew in from Canada was found to have the same genetic sequencing as that carried by a Filipina domestic worker who had stayed in a room opposite to theirs.

Chuang said investigators had ruled out the possibility that the patient from Dubai had caught the mutated virus from his girlfriend with whom he lived in Jordan after his quarantine because the woman’s infection was deemed to be recent.

Because of this finding, everyone who had stayed in rooms on the same floor of Ramada TST from Mar 19 to Apr 9, when the index case was there, was moved to quarantine “just in case they were exposed to the same risk,” said Chuang.

Chuang says investigation on possible virus spread in Ramada hotels continues

The other imported cases today include two who were found infected while staying at Ramada in North Point. One is a 38-year-old FDH who arrived from the Philippines on Apr 6, and the other is a two-year-old boy who flew in from India with family members who were earlier found infected.

He was in the same Vistara flight, UK6395, where a total of 53 passengers have so far tested positive for Covid-19, said Chuang.

The third imported case is a two-year-old girl who had flown in from India and was found infected in a quarantine center where she was moved after some family members tested positive for the virus earlier.

Two other local cases, as well as the unclassified one, all live in Tsuen Wan, where a rash of cases with unknown sources has been reported recently. This prompted Chuang to admit that there seems to be an invisible transmission going on in the district.

The two local cases who live there are both women. One is 57 years, and the other, a 46-year-old who arrived from Shenzhen on Apr 6 and had worked in Nina Hotel from Apr 10 to 19.

The unclassified case involving a 57-year-old who arrived on Apr 6 from Fujian via Shenzhen, had also been staying in Tsuen Wan for her home quarantine.

Chuang said this was “quite likely an imported case but could also be local because there were some family members who were going in and out” of the house where she was staying.

The last local case involves a 41-year-old male construction worker who lives in Tai Wai.

No preliminary cases were reported.


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