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HK to quarantine 120 people linked to Covid-19 infection in bars

26 March 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Dusk till Dawn on Jaffe Rd is one of 4 bars where the infected musicians performed

Hong Kong health officials say 120 staff of four bars linked to a recent cluster of Covid-19 cases will be sent to quarantine centres, in what appears to be the biggest containment move undertaken locally to stop the spread of the deadly disease.

The move was announced at the press briefing held today, Mar. 26, by officials of the Centre for Health Protection, who also said 16 musicians who played at the bars have already tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

Four of them were included in the 43 newly confirmed cases today. Three new cases involved staff at the bars (2 men and 1 woman), while four are customers.
An additional case involving a 20-year-old police officer could also be linked, as she had reported dropping by one of the bars on Mar. 20.

The bars have been identified as Insomnia in Central, Dusk Till Dawn and Centre Stage in Wan Chai, and All Night Long in Tsim Sha Tsui.

All four bars are reportedly managed by just one company, along with nine bands made up mostly by Filipinos who played there regularly. Outside sources named the company as Step By Step.
Consul General Raly Tejada has expressed concern at the growing number of infections linked to the bars, and suggested the Hong Kong government do more to stop the spread.

But he stopped short of calling for the bars’ closure, as what some local lawmakers have been pushing for.

“I do not discount the good job that the HK government and its health professionals have done specially in the past two months. However, the situation now is highly alarming. HK government should now employ stronger health measures under its disposal to arrest the spread of the disease before it’s too late,” said Congen Tejada.


He noted that “the musicians were under contract and they were just doing their job.”
 
Congen Tejada asks HK to do more to contain the spread of the disease in the bars

His call came after Finance Secretary Paul Chan warned businesses of more stringent measures that might be adopted to enforce social distancing.

Among the measures reportedly being considered by the government is to order bars and restaurants to close early, or ensure patrons do not sit close to each other.

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A plan disclosed earlier by Chief Executive Carrie Lam to forbid the sale of liquor in bars, has been widely criticized as being insufficient.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of CHP’s communicable disease branch, said all staff of the entertainment company, which number 124, will be sent to quarantine centers.

“We will trace all these people and send them to quarantine centres, as they are considered as close contacts [of confirmed cases],” she said.

However, she said it would be difficult to trace all of the bar’s patrons, so people will have to remain vigilant, not only when they go to bars but also when they go to some “high-risk gatherings” like big parties.

Manuela Lo, chair of the Hong Kong Musicians Union, has also called on her members to be more careful about hygiene and avoid loitering in the bars where the infected musicians had played.

But she said another concern is how the musicians who have fallen ill could be compensated, noting that they were stricken in the course of work, and were not negligent in any way.

She is also worried that the musicians would have more than just the illness to worry about, should they lose their jobs if the bars are closed down.
 
Insomnia in Lan Kwai Fong is where most of the infected staff work
Of the 43 new cases, 25 are women and 19 are men, aged between 18-78. An overwhelming majority, or 29 of the new cases, involved people with recent travel history, including 10 overseas students.

They also included two more newly arrived Filipino domestic workers. One flew in from the Philippines, while the other had been to the United States with her employer. They brought to 7 the number of imported cases involving FDWs.

Congen Tejada said only three of the new cases were reported by the CHP to the Consulate as involving Filipinos.

However, he is also checking on the nationality of the new cases linked to the bar cluster, as all of the previous seven band members who were confirmed to have Covid-19, as well as a waitress at Insomnia, were belatedly confirmed to be Filipinos.

He reiterated a call for Filipinos in Hong Kong to remain indoors as much possible, amid the recent spike in cases.
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