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World-Wide Plaza, Statue Square put under compulsory testing order

Posted on 08 May 2021 No comments

By The SUN

Thousands of people would have been in World-Wide Plaza at the designated time

Two favorite haunts in Central of Filipino domestic workers have been placed under compulsory testing order after an elderly Filipina resident was found to carry a mutated coronavirus.

A statement released by the government late on Friday said anyone who had stayed in World-Wide Plaza (only the mall) for at least an hour on May 1 and 2 must get themselves tested for Covid-19 by May 10.

The same order applies to anyone who spent at least an hour in Statue Square on May 2.

Those who had Covid tests on May 1 to 7 are exempted from the order, as well as those who are fully vaccinated, meaning those who have had two doses of a vaccine on or before Apr 23 (plus 14 days after vaccination).

Part of Statue Square which is covered by the testing order
The 67-year-old female patient who was one of three confirmed cases reported Friday is the mother of the Filipina girlfriend of an Indian returnee from Dubai who appears to have spread the variant after getting out of his 21-day hotel quarantine.

Five other infections were linked to the man, including three Filipina domestic workers and the employer and ward of one of them.

Two other places that the patient visited were also listed in the compulsory testing notice. These are Hing Wah Plaza and New Jade Shopping Arcade, both in Chai Wan. Anyone who had been to either place for at least an hour on Apr 29 must have themselves tested by May 10.

Also listed in the notice are 16 mostly kindergarten and primary schools in which outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection and/or flu-like illness have occurred.

The places under the compulsory testing notice are here: https://gia.info.gov.hk/general/202105/07/P2021050700854_366769_1_1620398163831.pdf

Foreign domestic helpers who have yet to get tested can avail of the services provided by 21 community testing centres across the city. Booking and walk-in services are available. For information, check out: www.communitytest.gov.hk/en.

In addition, mobile specimen collection stations will be set up at the following locations from this weekend:

     • Hing Wah Estate Playground No. 1, Chai Wan (May 8 to 10)
     • Chai Wan Park (Basketball Courts No.1 and 2) (May 8 to 10)
     • Lay-by at Wan Tsui Lane, Chai Wan (May 8 to 10)
     • Man Tung Road Park entrance, Tung Chung (May 8 to 9)

The following mobile stations will operate as usual, but will open early at either 8am or 9am during the weekend: Central and Western District (namely Edinburgh Place in Central, Outside Central Piers No.9 and No.10, Sai Ying Pun Community Complex, Kennedy Town Playground and Tamar Park in Admiralty).

All persons subject to compulsory testing may choose to undergo testing via the following routes:
     1. To visit any of the mobile specimen collection stations (see the list and target groups (if applicable) at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html) for testing;
     2. To attend any of the community testing centres (see the list at www.communitytest.gov.hk/en);
     3. To obtain a deep throat saliva specimen collection pack from any of the 121 post offices, vending machines set up at 20 MTR stations or 47 designated general outpatient clinics (GOPCs) of the Hospital Authority and return the specimen to one of the designated specimen collection points (see the distribution points and times, and the specimen collection points and times, at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html);
     4. To undergo testing at any of the GOPCs of the Hospital Authority as instructed by a medical professional of the Hospital Authority;
     5. To self-arrange testing provided by private laboratories which are recognised by the Department of Health (DH) and can issue SMS notifications in respect of test results (see the list at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/List_of_recognised_laboratories_RTPCR.pdf); or
     6. To use a specimen bottle distributed to the relevant specified premises by the CHP (if applicable), and return the specimen bottle with the sample collected as per relevant guidelines.

The mobile testing van in Edinburgh Place will open at 8am on Sat and Sunday

All those subject to compulsory testing must keep the SMS notification containing the result of the test for checking by a law enforcement office.

Any enquiries on compulsory testing arrangements may be made to the hotline, 6275 6901, which operates daily from 9am to 6pm. If persons subject to compulsory testing plan to conduct testing at any of the community testing centres, they can check the centre's appointment status in advance. The hotlines of the community testing centres are available at www.communitytest.gov.hk/en/info

Anyone who fails to comply with the testing notices commits and may be fined a fixed penalty of $5,000. The person would also be issued with a compulsory testing order requiring him or her to undergo testing within a specified time. Failure to comply with the order could make the offender liable to a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for six months.

In addition, any person who fails to comply with the reasonable request of a law enforcer to provide information and assistance could be liable to a fine of up to $10,000.

Govt steps back from isolating residents in variant-tainted blocks

Posted on No comments

By The SUN

 

More than 1,000 residents were evacuated from a housing block in Caribbean Coast

In a major shift in its pandemic response, the government announced Friday that it would no longer impose a 21-day quarantine for residents of entire housing blocks where Covid infections involving mutant strains are found.

If they test negative following a lockdown they can remain in their homes, but must comply with more mandatory testing afterwards.

The move follows accusations that the government had overreacted to the discovery of coronavirus variants within the community.

Much of the criticism came from hundreds of people told to move to quarantine facilities as soon as a single case of a variant infection was found in their housing blocks. 

Lam says the policy shift was made after assessing the latest situation

Controller of the Centre for Health Protection, Ronald Lam, said at the press conference officials had decided to release the residents early after reviewing the latest situation.

He said people evacuated from Parkes Building where an Indian returnee from Dubai found to have the South African variant had lived would soon complete their 21-day quarantine and none of them has been found to carry the virus.

Following this, thousands more people were moved to quarantine centers after a string of variant carriers were found.

They included residents of a block in Caribbean Coast in Tung Chung, Kennedy Heights in Mid-Levels, Beauty Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui, Allway Gardens in Tsuen Wan, Kornhill Garden in Quarry Bay, and Royalton in Pokfulam. 

Also moved were nearly 80 Filipinos who belong to the choir of St Thomas the Apostle church in Tsing Yi, where the helper from Tung Chung was also a member.

But apart from the female employer of the Tung Chung patient, no infection has been found so far from among those moved to quarantine camps..

Lam deflected criticism of an overreaction, saying officials could not find the source of the infections at first. But the concern eased after seven of the most recent cases were all linked to the Indian returnee from Dubai.

“We had to adopt the most prudent approach and most stringent measures,” he said.

“This is not only for the health of the residents, but also to prevent further transmission within the community. So this is definitely not an overreaction but a very cautious approach to protect the health of Hong Kong.”

Under the new rules, those already sent to quarantine camps for 21 days, including more than a thousand people from Tower 11 of Caribbean Coast, will be tested again. They can go home if they obtain a negative test result, but will continue taking a series of Covid tests afterwards.

The amended rules were mostly a nod to residents who have been fully vaccinated.

If they are deemed as close contacts of coronavirus patients with variants they can leave quarantine after 14 days if they are fully vaccinated, instead of the current 21 days. But they will still have to undergo mandatory tests after their return home.

If they are linked to infected patients who do not have the mutant strains, their quarantine period will go down to 7 days from the current 14.

Chan says only those returning from high risk countries
will still be subject to 21-day quarantine
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Dr Sophia Chan said that new quarantine rules that take effect next Wednesday will benefit returning residents if they are fully vaccinated.

Those coming from low-risk countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, will be required to undergo quarantine at a hotel for seven days, instead of 14, but they must have one more Covid test afterwards.

The quarantine period for those arriving from medium-risk places will be cut to 14 days from 21.

But the quarantine rules for those who fly in from high-risk countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland will remain unchanged.

People in countries currently designated as “extremely high risk” such as the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa and Brazil are still barred from flying to Hong Kong

Filipina mum raises variant cluster linked to Indian returnee to 8

Posted on 07 May 2021 No comments

By Daisy C L Mandap

 

No new cases were found during an overnight lockdown of the
Chai Wan block where the woman lives (RTHK)

The mother of the Filipina girlfriend of the Indian returnee from Dubai has been found to carry the coronavirus variant, raising the number of infections from this cluster to eight.

The 67-year-old woman who lives alone in a flat in Fung Hing House in Chai Wan was among three new Covid-19 cases reported today, May 7.

Another case is that of a 29-year-old male staff of BGI laboratories who tested positive for Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

The third case involves a 22-year-old Indonesian domestic helper who was cleared of coronavirus during her 21-day hotel quarantine which ended on Apr 24, but was found infected after complying with compulsory testing on May 5.

According to Dr Albert Au in today’s Health Department press briefing, the elderly woman was classified as a close contact of her daughter and her Indian boyfriend on May 5, after it emerged that they all had a dinner party at her Chai Wan home on Apr 13.

The woman had a slight fever so she was sent to hospital, where she was found to carry the South African variant similar to that found in her daughter and the Indian resident.

Apart from them, also linked to this cluster are three Filipina domestic helpers who all attended a gathering in a Sham Shui Po flat where the woman's son, wife and grandson live.

The two other linked cases are the female employer and 10-month-old ward of one of the Filipina helpers, who all live together in Caribbean Coast, Tung Chung.

Au said all the people who attended the gatherings in both houses, and about 20 others  who joined the woman’s son in parties at Deep Water Bay on Apr 25 and May 1, have been quarantined and tested.

The Centre for Health Protection specialist said the test results on all these close contacts are expected to be released by tonight.

Asked why the index case in the cluster and his girlfriend did not immediately disclose their whereabouts during the incubation period, including being at the Chai Wan party, Au said they might have forgotten.

But he said investigators are looking into whether the two had deliberately concealed their whereabouts, and will take action if necessary.

“If we find out that there is deliberate concealment, we will take action,” he said.

Au says CHP will take action if the infected couple is found to have deliberately concealed information

Soon after the Indian returnee was reported in mid-April as the first local case with the mutant virus, the Jordan flat he shared with his girlfriend was locked down and all residents taken away for 21-day quarantine.

When interviewed for contact tracing, the man said he did not go out much between the time he ended his hotel quarantine on Apr 9 and when his infection was discovered. He named two bank branches in Jordan and a restaurant in Cheung Chau as the places he visited.

But after the Tung Chung helper was found infected, the man and his girlfriend revealed more details, saying they had gone to Citygate Outlet mall and a curry place in the area, as well as a second restaurant in Discovery Bay.

Their attendance at the Chai Wan party came out after the two other helpers, one living in Kornhill Garden, and another in Pokfulam, were found infected after they complied with mandatory testing on May 2.

Meanwhile, Au said the Indonesian helper’s case was classified as imported after further tests on her showed her viral load was “very, very low,” indicating she was a recovered patient.

“The clinical picture is more compatible with a previous infection,” said Au.

Moreover, she mainly stayed at her employer’s village house in Taipo after being released from hotel quarantine on Apr 24. However, she did go to a clinic for a body check and to the Immigration office to apply for an identity document.

Three immigration officers who attended to her have been quarantined, as well as five family members of her employer.

The BioNTech vaccine is believed to have protected the man from Covid symptoms

Equally baffling was the case of the BGI staff, whose source of infection is unknown, and was found to have a very low viral load.

Au said this must have been due to him having taken two BioNTech jabs on Mar 20 and Apr 10, and should have received full protection 14 days after.

“Because the vaccine offered protection to him, even after he caught the infection, he did not develop any symptoms and the virus shedding was very minimal. That means the vaccine had been effective,” Au said.

So far, he said the CHP has found no evidence of sample contamination in BGI, a mainland firm contracted to do Covid-19 testing in Hong Kong.

Café de Coral denies Filipino DH ban, threatens lawsuit

Posted on No comments

By The SUN 

Cafe de Coral is threatening to sue people behind the rumor that it is banning Filipino DHs

Hong Kong’s largest fast food chain, Café de Coral, has denied “rumours” which began circulating overnight that it is banning Filipino domestic helpers from entering its restaurants.

A statement released by the company today, May 7, says the matter has been reported to the police and that it reserves the right to file a lawsuit against those spreading the false news.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

“The (Café de Coral) Group is highly concerned about rumours regarding Café de Coral banning Filipino domestic helpers from entry, which are absolutely unfounded and untrue. We have reported the case to the Police and reserve the right to pursue further action against relevant parties,” said the statement.

The claim first came out as a post by a certain “John Richards,” - apparently a fictitious account - that Café de Coral has started banning Filipino DHs into its restaurants, purportedly to help China shift the blame for Covid-19 onto foreign domestic workers.

Pindutin para sa detalye

The post said helpers are being asked by Café de Coral staff if they are Filipinos before being allowed entry.

Despite no definite incident being cited, or pictures or testimonies to back up the claim, the post was shared extensively by members of the Filipino community.

Pindutin para sa detalye

Some of those who fell for the rumor called for a boycott of the fastfood chain, which is highly popular among FDHs because of its affordably priced meals.

Others who were more discerning warned of being taken to court for spreading false information on social media.

Many Filipina DHs posted photos of them eating in Cafe de Coral to dispel the rumor 

Under Hong Kong’s Racial Discrimination Ordinance, it is unlawful to hold up any group for vilification or contempt, or treat them less favorably, because of their race or ethnicity.

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Any offender may be liable to a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to two years.

On the other hand, anyone who maliciously publishes any defamatory allegation, knowing the same to be false, shall be liable to imprisonment of up to two years, and in addition, pay such fine as the court may award.

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The rumor was circulated in the wake of news that a number of Filipina DHs had been found to carry the mutated form of the coronavirus after gathering in a flat in Sham Shui Po.

The Café de Coral group was in the news recently after reportedly posting a near fivefold increase in annual net profit despite the pandemic.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

The group’s parent company operates about 450 restaurants in Hong Kong and the mainland, including some 150 Café de Coral outlets, The Spaghetti House and Oliver’s Super Sandwiches.

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At least 40K FDHs still need to get tested as deadline nears

Posted on No comments

By The SUN 

Labour is again sending 4 mobile testing vans to FDH hotspots this weekend


The Labour Department has called on foreign domestic helpers to get tested as soon as possible, and avoid the last-minute rush to beat the deadline for compulsory testing this weekend.

Labour said in a statement on Thursday, May 6, that 201,000 foreign domestic helpers had complied with mandatory testing as of Tuesday. An additional 130,000 had booked places at community testing centers between May 5 and the May 9 deadline.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

That is still 40,000 short of the total FDH population of about 370,000. But basing from the figures from the first day of testing on May 1, when 52,000 were served, the shortfall could still be met.

The Department has announced that four mobile testing stations will be deployed again at four places where FDHs often hang out on May 8 and 9, from 10am to 8pm. These are Chater Garden in Central, Soccer Pitch 6 at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, Lai Chi Kok Park and Tsuen Wan Park.

Pindutin para sa detalye

At the same time, FDHs can submit bottles containing saliva specimens to community testing centers or mobile collection stations in the coming days. The specimen bottles can be picked up from MTR stations and post offices. Details can be found here: (www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202105/05/P2021050500844.htm).    

So far, three FDHs who got tested were found to carry the mutant strain of the coronavirus, with another one testing positive after being identified as a close contact of one of the carriers.

Pindutin para sa detalye

In its statement, Labour called on FDHs to get tested immediately, and employers to let them go out on a weekday to prevent mobile testing stations being swamped with walk-in applicants on Saturday and Sunday.

“We remind FDHs who are subject to compulsory testing to be tested as soon as possible. To avoid long wait times on the weekend, we encourage FDHs to receive testing today (May 6) and tomorrow (May 7) as far as possible. We appeal to employers to allow their FDHs to receive testing on a weekday.”

Migrant leaders fear a deluge at testing stations over the weekend

Filipino and Indonesian community leaders have warned that chaos could ensue over the weekend, particularly on Sunday, which is the only day given by some employers to their helpers to get out of the house.

Dolores Balladares of United Filipinos (Migrante) Hong Kong has said in several interviews that not a few FDHs have expressed concern that they wouldn’t be able to meet the deadline as their employers are not allowing them to go out on a weekday to get tested.

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Balladares said this could lead to migrant workers turning out by the tens of thousands on the last day of the testing period and having to wait for hours to get tested.

She said this would expose workers not just to the elements but also the risk of contracting the coronavirus from an unknown carrier as they need to stand close to each other in the queue. 

 

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Eni Lestari of International Migrant Alliance said in The SUN Interviews on Facebook Wednesday night that concerned consulates should lead their respective communities in ensuring that migrant domestic workers are able to comply with the order.

Lestari said many workers do not even know where to go for tests after most appointment slots at community testing centers were filled as soon as the compulsory testing notice was issued on Apr 30.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

The government said then that all FDHs should submit themselves to Covid-19 tests between May 1 to 9, citing the cases of two FDHs, both Filipinas, being found with the mutated virus.

But experts say the first was infected by next-door neighbors in her quarantine hotel in Sai Ying Pun, and was not detected until she had moved in with her employer in Mid-Levels.

The other caught the virus from an Indian returnee who tested positive five days after finishing his 21-day hotel quarantine, and had gone around the city, infecting at least three other Filipinas.

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Deepwater Bay beach-goers told to get tested after visits by carrier’s kin

Posted on No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

Those who were at Deepwater Bay beach on Apr 25 & May 1 need to get tested

People who were in Deepwater Bay Beach in Island South on Apr 25 and May 1 are being ordered to get compulsory coronavirus tests after relatives of a Filipina infected with the South African variant attended two gatherings there.

A compulsory testing notice on people who were at the beach will have to be complied with before May 8.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE


The Centre for Health Protection said everyone who attended both gatherings will be moved to quarantine centers as the case involves the N501Y mutant strain.

The 31-year-old Filipina is a girlfriend of an Indian man who arrived Apr 4 from Dubai and was found infected with the variant after he had completed quarantine in Ramada Grand Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Pindutin para sa detalye

The woman lived with her boyfriend in Parkes Building in Jordan and eventually also tested positive for the dreaded strain on Apr 18.  

Earlier, the government said the Filipina’s family members held a gathering in a Sham Shui Po flat where three Filipina domestic workers who recently tested positive for the variant were among the guests.

Pindutin para sa detalye

The pandemic situation in Hng Kong continued to stabilize today, May 6, with two women, both domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia, the only confirmed new cases. None of them carried the mutant strain, the CHP said.

The Filipina, 42, arrived asymptomatic on a Philippine Airlines PR 300 flight from Manila on Apr 16. She was negative upon arrival and went to the Grand City Hotel in Sai Ying Pun for quarantine. She tested positive on her 19th day there, the CHP said.

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The Indonesian, 32, arrived from Surabaya on Apr 23 on Cathay Pacific flight CX2870. She was also negative and asymptomatic on arrival. She checked into Ramada Hong Kong Grand in Tsim Sha Tsui and tested positive on her 12th day of quarantine.

The two new cases took Hong Kong’s total caseload to 11,799.

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As of 9am today, a total of 88 confirmed patients were being treated in 15 public hospitals and the North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre, the Hospital Authority said.

Among them were three patients in critical condition, two in serious condition and the remaining 83 in stable condition.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

A total of 92 cases have been reported in the past 14 days to May 5, including 18 local cases, of which four are from unknown sources.
     
Meanwhile, the CHP reminded those who had visited specified venues for at least two hours under the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation (Cap. 599J) to undergo compulsory nucleic acid testing.

People are also urged to seek medical attention early if symptoms develop and undergo testing as soon as possible.

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3 FDHs with mutated virus linked to carrier from Dubai

Posted on 06 May 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

 

A gathering in this Shamshuipo building was attended by the 3 Filipina DHs

Health authorities have uncovered a direct link between an Indian returnee from Dubai who was identified as the first local case with the N501Y variant of the coronavirus, and three Filipina domestic workers recently found to also carry the mutant strain.

According to a press statement issued by the Centre for Health Protection on Wednesday night, two separate family gatherings appeared to have spread the variant among the index patient, his Filipina girlfriend, and the three Filipina DHs. 


PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

Extensive contact tracing reportedly showed that the man who ended his 21-day hotel quarantine on Apr 9 (case no 11643) and his girlfriend who he apparently infected (11672) joined the woman’s family at a gathering on Apr 13 at Fung Hing House of Hing Wah Estate in Chai Wan.

On Apr 18, a Sunday, three of the guests at the Chai Wan gathering had another party at their home at 37 Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po. Present at the gathering were cases 11773 (the FDH who lives in Caribbean Coast, Tung Chung); 11793 (who lives in Kornhill Garden, Quarry Bay) and 11797 (lives in Royalton, Pokfulam).

Pindutin para sa detalye

Following this discovery, the CHP sent everyone who attended both gatherings to a quarantine center. 

Everyone who stayed at the Sham Shui Po building from Apr 15 to May 5 have been told to undergo undergo compulsory testing before May 7. 

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As a compulsory testing order was issued on May 3 to residents of Fung Hing House due to the result of a sewage sample test, people who had stayed in the building from Apr 30 to May 3 will also have to undergo testing by May 6. 

The Citygate Outlet mall was originally thought of as the link between the cases

The same order was issued to the workplaces of two guests at the gathering: Urban Bakery Works at Shop 322, 3/F, Landmark Atrium and Oliver's the Delicatessen at Shop 201-2, 2/F, Landmark Prince's. Everyone who had visited either of these places from Apr 15 to May 5 should undergo testing by May 7.

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Because of the latest findings, cases 11773 and 11793 have been reclassified as local cases linked to previous infections. 

The first, which involves a 39-year-old Filipina living in Tung Chung, had previously been described as the first local case of a variant carrier with an unknown source. 


Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

The second, pertaining to the 46-year-old Filipina living in Kornhill Garden, was also classified as local with an unknown source. Her 38-year-old friend from Pokfulam, case no 11797, was linked to her. 

The index case in the cluster is a 29-year-old Indian man who arrived in Hong Kong on Mar 19 from Dubai. He tested negative during his 21-day hotel quarantine, and went on to live with his girlfriend in Parkes Building in Jordan.

He was found to carry the South African variant after he got himself tested on Apr 14, in preparation for his return to Dubai.

Coincidentally, he and his girlfriend had visited Citygate Outlet mall in Tung Chung on the same day that the Filipina living in Caribbean Coast was there, leading investigators to initially believe the infection happened there. 

More details of the Indian man’s whereabouts during the incubation period came out after investigations showed his variant had exactly the same genetic sequencing as that found in his girlfriend and the Filipina in Tung Chung. 

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