Hong Kong and Guangdong people usually have a dish of 'fat choy ho see' on the second day of Chinese New Year. Photo: Baidu

At least four people caught the Wuhan virus – known now as Covid-19 – from a couple during a dinner gathering attended by 29 people at a restaurant in North Point on January 26, the second day of the Year of the Rat.

The latest cases follow a report that 11 people were infected during a hotpot meal in Kwun Tong on the same day. They are evidence showing that third-generation virus transmission has happened in Hong Kong.

The transmission chain began with a 75-year-old Hong Kong man, who lived in unit A07 on the 13th floor of Hong Mei House. This man visited Shunde in Guangdong province between December 30 last year and January 7 and took day trips to Macau from January 10 to 14.

He developed a cough and shortness of breath on January 22 and was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital on January 24. This elderly man was identified on January 30 as the 12th infected person in Hong Kong.

The man’s virus spread to a family of three – a 37-year-old man, his wife and mother, who resided together in unit A07 on the third floor on Hong Mei House.

According to the Centre for Health Protection, the virus could have gone through the toilet drainage system and “leaked” into the lower floor unit’s toilet by air through the exhaust pipe, which was modified and not completely sealed.

Hong Mei House in Hong Kong. Photo: Google Maps

ReadVirus may spread in HK toilet drainage system

The 37-year-old man developed a fever and cough on January 30 and consulted a private doctor on the same day. He saw another private doctor on February 3 and 5. His wife, also 37, developed a fever, cough and sore throat on February 2 and consulted a private doctor the following day.

The man’s 62-year-old mother developed a cough on February 3 and consulted a private doctor on February 3, 5 and 7. She sought treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) on February 9, and was admitted for isolation and management. She was identified on Monday as the 42nd person with the disease in Hong Kong.

The man and his wife, who had good health previously and no travel history during the incubation period, were sent to PMH on Monday and identified on Tuesday as the 48th and 49th people infected in the city.

The couple could have passed the virus to at least four relatives in a dinner at the Star Seafood Restaurant in North Point on the evening of January 26, the second day of the Year of the Rat. Some 25 adults and four children attended the dinner.

Star Seafood Restaurant in North Point. Photo: Google Maps

In Hong Kong and Guangdong province, people usually have “Hoi nin fan” – literally “Open year dinner,” with relatives on the second day of the Lunar New Year. The meal includes a dish of dried oyster with back moss, namely “fat choy ho see,” which means making money in good markets.

The four infected relatives included a 75-year-old man, a younger sister-in-law and her son and the latter’s older female cousin.

The 75-year-old man – father of the 48th infected person in the city – resided in Tin Chak House, Tin Wan Estate, Aberdeen. He developed fever and cough on February 3 and consulted private doctors on February 3, 7 and 10. He sought medical attention at Queen Mary Hospital on Monday and was identified as the 46th infected person in Hong Kong the next day.

The man’s younger sister-in-law, 67, was living at Mount Parker Lodge in Quarry Bay on weekdays and usually stays with her son at Heung Hoi Mansion in Wan Chai on weekends. She developed a cough on January 31 and then fever and chills the next day. She consulted private doctors on January 31, February 3 and 7.

Her 37-year-old son developed fever on February 8 and consulted a private doctor on February 9. Both the woman and her son sought treatment from Ruttonjee Hospital on Wednesday and were identified as the 52nd and 53rd infected individuals in Hong Kong on Thursday. They had no travel history during the incubation period.

The woman was living with her daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and a domestic worker, who have not shown any symptoms of illness but have been ordered to stay in quarantine.

The 37-year-old son works with the Central and Western Islands’ Social Security Field Units for the Social Welfare Department. His office, on the third floor of Tung Che Commercial Centre in Sai Ying Pun, has been closed for sterilization. It is in the same building as the Asia Times’ Hong Kong bureau.

Tung Chu Commerical Centre in Sai Ying Pun. Photo: Google Maps

On Friday, his female cousin, 41, who resided in Tai Long Wan Tsuen in Shek O and worked as a clerk in Quarry Bay, was identified as the 54th infected person in the city. Two more relatives who attended the dinner are waiting for test results.

Meanwhile, the Star Seafood Restaurant in North Point was shut down on February 6 after its tenancy agreement expired.

A report published by Wen Wei Po, a pro-Beijing newspaper, said if there was enough evidence to show that the virus was transmitted within Hong Mei House and then to diners, a third-generation of virus transmission could have happened.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s Communicable Disease Branch, said people should avoid unnecessary family gatherings in the short term. She said more information was needed to determine how the virus was spread at the North Point dinner on January 26.

ReadHotpot diners ‘caught Wuhan virus via droplets, not aerosols’

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