Restaurants in Hong Kong have been ordered to reduce the number of tables from March 29, 2020. Photo: Asia Times

Fears are growing that a new wave of Covid-19 could come from mainland China to Hong Kong as local asymptomatic patients and infected overseas students could spread the virus in nearby Guangdong province, according to two Hong Kong microbiologists. 

The mainland is facing another outbreak of infections that could eventually bring a new wave of cases to Hong Kong, Yuen Kwok-yung, the chair of the infectious diseases section at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Microbiology, said in a radio program. 

Yuen said Guangdong had reported five new cases of Covid-19 with no known origin. He said these cases may be related to the recent return of overseas Chinese from virus hotspots like the United States or Europe and could easily become another wave of infections in the mainland.

He said China also saw a rising risk of virus outbreaks as many people have been going back to work and resuming economic activities in the mainland after an extended period in lockdown.

“This kind of cycle will continue on and on until we have an effective vaccine or we acquire herd immunity, where about 60-70%, or even 70-80%, of people are immune to Covid-19,” Yuen said.

Although the number of infections in the mainland has declined, a new wave of community outbreaks could still happen if asymptomatic patients return to their workplaces in key cities, said David Hui Shu-cheong, Chairman, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong should keep closely monitoring the number of cases in the city and launch stronger anti-epidemic measures if necessary, Hui said. 

On Saturday and Sunday, Hong Kong recorded 45 new cases of Covid-19 infections, bringing the total number to 890, according to the Center for Health Protection. Among the newly-infected, 30 had travel history during the incubation period, while the remaining 10 were locally infected. 

On Saturday, a 46-year-old sergeant with the Police Tactical Unit at Kowloon West was found to be infected with the coronavirus. He had been stationed at the same unit as another officer who had tested positive on March 30. On Sunday, police said about 120 officers may need to go into quarantine, RTHK reported.

The government should consider making it mandatory for people to wear face masks in public, Ho Pak-leung, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, said Monday.  

Ho said a case concerning a 93-year-old patient contracting Covid-19 at Pok Oi Hospital and a cluster of infections among police officers may be related to people not wearing face masks at hospitals or in their offices. He said the government should consider completely shutting down restaurants or allowing customers to buy takeaway meals only.

Hong Kong still has room to bring in more stringent measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, Bernard Chan, the convenor of the Executive Council, said Sunday. The options available included the possibility of limiting “restaurants to selling take-out only” or simply imposing a much bigger lockdown across the city until all non-essential businesses closed, Chan said. 

From March 29, catering premises were ordered to reduce the number of tables, while six kinds of premises, including fitness centers and party rooms, were ordered to stop providing services for 14 days. The government also ordered the shutdown of karaoke, nightclubs and mahjong parlors from April 1 and bars and pubs from April 3. 

Medical experts have warned that social activities during the coming Easter holidays may pose new risks to the epidemic situation in Hong Kong. It remains unclear whether some asymptomatic patients will come to southern China from Wuhan, which will lift its lockdown measures from April 8.

Read: HK shuts down karaoke and mahjong parlors

Read: Hubei lockdown ends Wednesday, Wuhan on April 8

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