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‘Silent transmission’ fears trigger compulsory testing of all airport workers

11 July 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Everyone who works at HK Airport will have to get tested for Covid-19 because of the 2 staff infections

A compulsory testing of all people working at Hong Kong International Airport was ordered today, Jul 11, by health officials amid fears of a “silent transmission” after a male porter tested positive for L452R, a mutant strain of the coronavirus.

“We will subject all airport staff who worked from June 26 to July 10 to compulsory testing as these number in tens of thousands,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection in a press briefing.


Chuang said the porter was required to undergo compulsory testing after an airline ground staff was found infected with the mutated virus two weeks ago. He was asymptomatic but the sample he submitted on Friday tested positive.  

All 98 people identified as close contacts of the 50-year-old patient had been sent to three-day quarantine, she said.

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These included people who lived with him, those who dined with him, other tenants of subdivided flats in his building, those who worked with him in the same area at the airport, and his father who he visited on Friday in a care home.

The CHP official, however, said authorities are worried about a possible “silent transmission” in the airport as he is the second airport worker infected with L452R, a mutant strain of Covid-19, in recent days.

Chuang says airport workers are at high risk of getting the virus from imported cases

“This was the second case of transmission involving the airport that’s why we suspect transmission had taken place at the airport, since most of those in the airport had come into contact with passengers,” said Chuang.


She said sanitation in the terminal, particularly escalator handrails and objects that passengers held, need to be improved.  

Also to be subject to compulsory testing are those who were at the nine places the patient had visited, including a shopping center, restaurants, the elderly home, and Ocean Park.


Chuang said the government declared the block where the man lives a “restricted area” from 7:30pm Saturday. All people living within the area were required to stay in their premises and undergo compulsory testing.

As at 12am today, 28 residents had undergone testing but no confirmed cases were found, Chuang said.

She said the case involves L452R and that genomic sequencing was being conducted to find out whether the infection came from the previously identified case, a 27-year-old man who received cargo flight crews at the airport.

That man, who lives in Wan Hang House, Wan Tau Tong Estate in Taipo, was a staff of Hong Kong Airlines who worked in a section of the airport where three newly arrived Indonesian women who were subsequently found to carry the Delta variant, had stayed.

Chuang said the latest case received the first dose of BioNTech vaccine on July 1. 

As a porter, he would normally not come into contact with flight crew or passengers, and authorities are still trying to ascertain the source of his infection, she said.

“For all workers in the airport, they are considered high-risk because they may get into contact directly or indirectly with imported cases,” Chuang said.

“Of course, we urge all of them to get vaccinated as soon as possible, but in the meantime they should still get tested,” she said.

All 28 residents of the Wong Tai Sin block where the patient lives tested negative

The latest case took the number of cases in Hong Kong to 11,952. So far, there are no preliminary positive cases, the CHP said.

A total of 39 cases have been reported in the past 14 days until July 10, including 37 imported cases and two import-related cases, according to the CHP.

Dr Larry Lee, a chief manager at the Hospital Authority, said a total of 50 confirmed patients are being treated in 11 public hospitals and the infection control centre in North Lantau Hospital. One patient is in serious condition and the remaining 49 patients are in stable condition. 


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