Medical experts expect that surging Covid infections in Hong Kong will peak by the coming weekend after the government tightened anti-epidemic measures.
The origin of the third wave could be taxi drivers who were infected by travelers arriving at the airport, Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, told i-Cable TV on Tuesday.
Yuen said it was a big loophole that some incoming travelers, such as flight crews and seafarers, had been exempted from virus tests for many months. Infected taxi drivers could have spread the virus to restaurants, resulting in a massive community outbreak.
Cases may peak on Saturday because the effects of anti-epidemic measures can usually be seen seven to 10 days after they are implemented, Yuen said.
Last Friday, the government announced that students would begin their summer holidays from Monday. It said also it would require all incoming travelers to be tested. On Monday, the government unveiled more measures, including a HK$5,000 (US$645) fine for those who refused to wear a mask on public transport, and the shutdown of 12 types of premise such as karaoke and fitness centers.
Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, said it would be a waste of medical resources to launch a citywide virus test scheme without reducing people’s social activities. Leung said if the epidemic situation does not improve next week, the government should further tighten social distancing rules.
Since July 5, local infections have re-emerged in Hong Kong. Over the past seven days, a total of 270 infections were recorded, including 58 imported cases, 132 that could be linked to previous cases and 80 with unknown sources, according to the Center for Health Protection. It showed that about 38% of 212 local cases were untraceable.
A large proportion of the locally infected patients were living or working in East Kowloon, particularly Tsz Wan Shan and Ngau Chi Wan.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said many patients were identified in Tsz Wan Shan but this did not mean people in other districts should not stay vigilant. Chuang said the virus could already have been spread to different districts by asymptomatic carriers.
On Tuesday, 48 cases were recorded in Hong Kong, including 8 imported cases, 16 that could be linked to previous cases and 24 with unknown sources.
Gabriel Leung, professor of public health medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said at least 50 or 60 asymptomatic patients were spreading the virus while each of them could infect three to four people.
In a letter, the Education Bureau asked schools to stop all campus activities for two weeks from Wednesday in light of the growing outbreak. It said schools need to finish all exams in the coming two to three days, or postpone or cancel them.
A number of parents rushed to take their children to Hong Kong Disneyland on Tuesday after the theme park said it will shut its doors temporarily from Wednesday. They said they were not too worried about the risk of the children getting infected, saying that they had taken extra precautions such as bringing more face masks.
Ocean Park will also temporarily close for one week from Wednesday.