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CHP says family of 8 from Pakistan may have spread virus on plane

02 December 2021

By The SUN 

CHP says a family of 8 spread the mutated virus to 3 other passengers on the plane

The Centre for Health Protection says cross-infection may have occurred aboard Emirates flight EK384 which arrived in Hong Kong on Nov 21 from Dubai, from where 12 confirmed cases have been found, 11 of them apparently linked, including eight members of one family.

“The CHP cannot rule out the possibility that the family cluster of eight cases may have spread the virus to other three cases by personal contact and share use of toilets in the aircraft,” said a statement released earlier tonight, Dec 2.

According to the CHP report, the genome sequencing analysis conducted by the Department of Health’s laboratory showed that some of the cases have identical genetic sequences, “suggesting that the three clusters are likely to be epidemiologically linked.”


The family of eight, which included several children as young as one year old, reportedly boarded the flight in Pakistan, which then passed through Bangkok, Thailand, and then Dubai, United Arab Emirates, before arriving in Hong Kong on Nov 21.

Three members of the family, two women aged 24 and 33, and a six-year-old boy, (cases 12411, 12412 and 12413) tested positive on their arrival test, so EK384 was barred from flying to Hong Kong for two weeks, from Nov 23 to Dec 6.

The rest of the family members were moved to Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre as close contacts, where five more (12437, 12438, 12439, 12443 and 12447) have been confirmed to have Covid-19 with the L452R mutant strain of the Delta variant.


Of the three other cases, patient 12420 boarded the flight in Bangkok and tested positive during quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel after arrival.

The two other cases involved a couple from India via Dubai (case 12429 tested positive during quarantine at a designated quarantine hotel; while case 12434 tested positive after being moved to Penny’s Bay).

“According to the genetic sequencing analysis by the (DH laboratory) these 11 patients were found to be carrying the L452R mutant strain,” said the CHP.


“The whole genome sequencing analysis completed today also confirmed that it belonged to the Delta variant and that cases 12413, 12420, 12429, 12434, 12437 and 12438 have identical genetic sequences, suggesting that these six patients are likely to be epidemiologically linked.”

There were a total of 74 passengers in the flight, said the CHP. Of the 11 infected, two were in the business cabin while the other nine were in economy class.

There was another confirmed case from the same flight (12423), which was, however, unrelated to the cluster.

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“As of now, 57 passengers are still undergoing quarantine at designated quarantine hotels. They tested negative by three tests already conducted as of yesterday (the eleventh day),” said the statement.

Given the high rate of infection among passengers on the flight, the CHP said it increase the number of tests for those still under quarantine, including “parallel testing” on the 19th day to further verify their negative test results before being released from isolation.

In addition, a local-based aircrew on the flight who should have completed his self-isolation on Nov 27 in line with his quarantine-exempt status has been sent to Penny’s Bay for quarantine until Dec 12.

All the other flight crew are not based in Hong Kong, and have already left. The CHP said it has informed the Airport Authority and Emirates about its findings, and suggested the close monitoring of the health conditions of the concerned aircrew and for the plane to be disinfected thoroughly.

The CHP said it will also ensure that the quarantine hotels where the other passengers are staying comply with the infection control requirements at all times. 

As the 11 cases were all detected during arrival tests at the airport or during quarantine at designated hotels and at Penny’s Bay, there has not been a spread in the community, said the CHP.

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