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FDH from US may have picked up virus in hotel, expert says

17 August 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Experts say the FDH may have caught the variant from a couple who stayed across her in Dorsett Hotel

A foreign domestic helper who tested positive for the L452R mutant strain five days after ending her seven-day quarantine may have been infected at her hotel, an infectious disease expert has revealed.

Prof Yuen Kwok-yung from the University of Hong Kong issued the statement after a team of medical experts inspected the Dorsett Hotel in Wanchai where the fully vaccinated FDH (case 12032) stayed for seven days after arriving from the United States on Aug. 1.


Yuen said the helper had stayed in a room opposite a couple who flew in on the same CX flight from Los Angeles and were later confirmed to carry the mutant strain (cases 12001 and 12005).

“The couple have opened the window of their room during specimen collection and their door was kept open for a minute and a half. They did not follow the rules which require those in quarantine to close their windows before opening their room door,” Yuen told reporters.

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“When windows are opened, air might flow out from the room. This is problematic, as the air might carry the Delta variant. After the air flow to the corridor, the medical staff then went into the helper’s room to collect specimen, and her window was not open. The tests we did showed the air in the corridor would flow into her room.”

Yuen added the hotel ventilation was not adequate to prevent cross-infection.


He suggested that specimen collection for quarantined guests be done more quickly so as to shorten the time when doors are kept open.

One way to do this is to skip identity checks as the guests’ identities had already been verified when they were given sample collection kits.


He dismissed the possibility that the helper had been infected by the couple on the plane even if they took the same flight, as they were seated apart.

Yuen says an open window in the couple's room pushed tainted air out into the corridor 

The helper, who moved on to her employer’s detached house on Stanley Village Road after ending her quarantine, left Hong Kong for the US on Jun 18 after receiving two doses of the BioNTech vaccine here.

She tested negative for Covid-19 before boarding her return flight from the US, and on her arrival in Hong Kong on Aug. 1.


She was cleared for a seven-day hotel quarantine after submitting a positive test result from an antibody test conducted by a laboratory in Hong Kong. It turned out she had sent a blood sample from the US for the test, which violated rules.

After her case was uncovered, HK moved the United States to the list of high-risk places, which means only vaccinated residents from there would be allowed to fly in, and they must quarantine for 21 days instead of 14.

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A panel of experts also recommended that Hong Kong maintain its hotel quarantine requirement for arrivals from overseas to between 14 and 21 days, depending on the risk category of the places they are coming from.

Following Yuen’s announcement, travelers have blasted at the experts for recommending the removal of the 7-day quarantine, when as it is now shown, the helper caught the virus due to cross-infection at her hotel and not because of a long incubation.

“They don’t seem to realize that putting people into hotels for 14-21 days is actually increasing the risk of getting cases into the community. Ridiculous,” said one.

This is not the first time that a hotel cross-infection has led to the coronavirus variant spreading in the community.

The Indian man from Dubai who unwittingly passed on the Delta variant to 10 other people within Hong Kong in April, was later discovered to have acquired it from a Filipino DH who stayed next to him at Ramada Grand Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Poor airflow in the hotel corridor was seen as the likely reason for the cross-contamination.

But the patient's failure to make a timely disclosure of his whereabouts during the incubation period led to thousands of Tung Chung residents being moved to a quarantine center, and prompted Hong Kong to order all FDHs to get tested for Covid-19.


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