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Residents of housing block evacuated as 112 new Covid-19 cases recorded

10 December 2020

By The SUN 

Residents of Blk 6 in Richland Estate were evacuated and moved to a quarantine center

Government health experts have again called on the public not to gather in each other’s houses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after residents of a residential block facing the same direction had to be evacuated because of the spread of the disease there.

A total of 112 new Covid-19 cases were reported as of midnight last night, with 102 of them being local cases and 10 imported. Among these, 68 were linked to previous infections, while 32 were of unknown sources.

More than 50 people tested preliminary positive.

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The city now has recorded a total of 7,292 cases, with 112 deaths. A 75-year-old female patient who passed away at 5:39pm yesterday in Queen Elizabeth Hospital was the latest recorded fatality.

Undersecretary for Food and Healthy Dr Chui Tak-yi said the coronavirus infection is at a “critical stage” and advised the public not to go out unless necessary, and not to meet up with friends or relatives at each other’s houses or restaurants to have a meal.

The warning was reiterated by Dr Chuang Shuk-wan, infectious disease chief at the Centre for Health Protection, who said, “please do not gather anymore at home. A lot of these cases happen among family members and friends.”

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She said 42, or nearly half of the new cases, came from family clusters.

They include another case detected at Block 6 of Richland Gardens estate in Kowloon Bay, which was ordered evacuated yesterday after a site inspection by two health experts.

Yuen (in beige) and fellow expert Wong Ka-hing think the virus spread through the sewage pipes (RTHK photo)

Seven previous infections were found among those living in units D of the housing block, prompting microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung to conclude after this morning’s inspection that the virus might have spread through the sewage pipes.

Yuen said the drainage pipes in the building were designed similarly to those in Amoy Gardens in the same district, which was the epicenter of the Sars outbreak in 2003.

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Chuang advised other residents in the Home Ownership Scheme estate to keep an eye on their U-trap drains, and to always pour bleach and cleaning agent into them to prevent the virus from spreading.

The official also said that the government was planning to impose mandatory coronavirus testing on residents if four or more unlinked cases are found in their buildings. She admitted there was no scientific basis to this, so the threshold may change depending on the overall infection rate.

She reiterated it was not safe to lock down residents if the cause of infection was from environmental factors, as what is suspected in the Richland Gardens estate.

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Among the new cases she cited were a cleaner at the Penny Bay Quarantine Center, who was related to the dance cluster; a student at a secondary school in Tsz Wan Shan and a teacher at another school in Tsing Yi. Both schools had to be closed for cleansing and some schools and teachers tested.

The linked cases included: 5 more in the Yata supermarket cluster in Shatin, which now has 10 staff who tested positive; 5 in the Lohas Park construction site, with 60 cases in all; 7 to the Tseung Kwan O –Lam Tin Tunnel, which now has 8 cases; and 3 to the AsiaWorld-Expo’s social welfare facility, with 16 cases in total.

The biggest cluster, which involved people who went to dance clubs and their family and friends, now has about 670 cases, with the addition of 6 new ones today.

Among those classified as unknown was one case involving a patient who attended Hins Cheung’s concert on Nov 29, and sat at zone 72. Several other concert-goers also tested positive earlier, but Chuang said an outbreak was not likely at this stage.

A total of 284 people who had been at the concerts were tested, and all turned up negative results. About 400 staff were likewise made to undergo testing, but only one part-time employee was found infected.

Chuang, Chui and Ho at today's press briefing

Among the 10 imported cases were three women who flew in from Indonesia. Two of them are domestic helpers; one tested positive on arrival at the airport, and the other, during the second test. The third is a female returnee who arrived on Nov 22 but was found infected only yesterday.

There were also three females from India, one domestic worker and two returnees, who all tested positive at the airport. Two were young female returnees, aged 18 and 20, who flew in from Britain; another is a male air crew from Russia; and last is a female returnee from Turkey who tested positive on the second test.

According to Chui, the last two weeks showed that the contagion remained serious. There were a total of 633 cases, and 591 of these were locally acquired. Among the local cases, 120 were untraceable, or 19% of the total number, meaning, there is still an invisible transmission chain in the community.

Dr Sara Ho, chief manager at the Hospital Authority said that as of 9am today, a total of 1,135 patients are being treated in 22 public hospitals and the AWE treatment facility. Among them, 43 are in critical condition, 59 in serious condition, while the 1,033 others are in stable condition.

Ho also reported cases that happened in three hospitals. The first involves a nurse in Yan Chai Hospital who tested preliminary positive and the second, a clerk in Tuen Mun Hospital. Neither was in close contact with patients, but the nurse’s colleagues who stayed with her in a changing room will be quarantined.

The third is a staff at Union Christian Hospital who cleaned the toilet used by a patient who later tested positive. The staff was put under quarantine, but her test results were negative. 

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