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2 UK returnees found with virulent Covid-19 strain; cases drop to 53

23 December 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

The two teenagers with the variant strain flew in recently from London

Two young residents who returned from the United Kingdom recently have been found to have been infected with the highly transmissible strain of the coronavirus, Hong Kong health officials announced today, Dec 23.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said the patients include a 14-year-old boy who is still undergoing treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and a 17-year-old male who was treated at the community facility at AsiaWorld-Expo, and had already been discharged.

Authorities are checking on their close contacts.

Chuang made the report as she announced 53 new coronavirus cases were found as of midnight last night, a new record low for the past month. Forty-seven are local transmissions, of which 20 could not be traced.

Six are imported cases, including an 18-year-old female returnee from the UK who arrived on Dec 11 and tested positive on her second test. The others are an air crew from Belgium and four returnees from India.

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Chuang said CHP uncovered the new variant in the two returnees after testing 11 samples from those who returned from Britain recently. Experts from the University of Hong Kong are also looking into the cases.

The variant first seen in Britain is said to be 70% more infectious than the common strain. This has led Hong Kong, along with most European countries and Canada, to recently ban all arrivals from Britain.

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In another case, a 25-year-old woman who was taken to North Lantau Hospital from the quarantine bay in Penny’s Bay after experiencing shortness of breath reportedly left without telling anyone in the hospital after testing negative for Covid-19.

The woman went back to Penny's Bay quarantine centre on her own, sparking concern

Dr Lau Ka-hin of the Hospital Authority said the woman was reported missing after she failed to take the transportation provided for her return to the quarantine camp. It turned out she decided to go back to the quarantine center on her own.

Lau reminded everyone who is in isolation, whether for treatment or quarantine, that they should not leave the hospital or quarantine centre where they are confined as that will be in breach of anti-epidemic regulations.

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Another notable case involves a 91-year-old woman who was discharged from hospital recently. A social worker who visited her at home found the elderly woman having shortness of breath. She tested positive for Covid-19 after being taken to United Christian Hospital.

Two patients who shared her hospital ward during her first confinement, aged 71 and 84 years old, have tested preliminary positive. Nine other patients have tested negative, as well as another who died recently and was tested at the mortuary. Nine other patients who had been discharged are being traced.

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Chuang said authorities are looking into whether the infections had come from outside the hospital, where compassionate visits to elderly patients by family members are allowed on case-to-case basis.

Meanwhile, a 77-year-old male Covid patient has died at Tuen Mun Hospital, raising the city’s death toll to 129.

Hong Kong now has 8,354 cases, and of these 1,026 are still being treated in 22 public hospitals and the AWE treatment facility. Among them, 65 are in critical condition, 60 are seriously ill, and 901 are in stable condition.

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