Hong Kong health experts are worried after three women who stayed in the same ward in Queen Elizabeth Hospital tested positive for Covid-19.
On Monday, a 92-year-old woman was confirmed to be infected. After that, a 77-year-old woman and a 64-year-old cancer patient were found to have the virus.
Tests were carried out on other patients and staff on the ward, but none had come back positive so far, according to the Center for Health Protection.
Elderly people do not develop a fever quickly because their immune response is slow, said Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist of the University of Hong Kong.
Yuen said it is inevitable that hospitals will admit people who have the virus but don’t show symptoms. One of the infected women may have touched the rail of other patients’ beds as she walked around and could have contaminated the environment, he said.
Arisina Ma, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Public Doctors Association, said elderly patients should be tested for the virus before being admitted to hospital.
Frontline medical staff in hospitals are at a risk because many cases in the current wave of infections involve elderly people — some of whom are asymptomatic, Ma said. The current situation is worrying as the source of infection is unknown in many cases.
Kwok Ka-ki, a Civic Party lawmaker and a practicing doctor, said the Hospital Authority should stop non-emergency services to reserve beds and staff to handle the outbreak, and that the quota for out-patient clinic services should be increased.
Virus tests should be done on some groups of people before being admitted to hospital, including those over 65, those with chronic diseases and pregnant women, Kwok said. These steps would help make sure Covid-19 doesn’t spread in hospitals.
On Wednesday, 19 cases were recorded in Hong Kong, including five imported cases, seven that could be linked to previous cases and seven with unknown sources.
On Monday, the government unveiled more anti-epidemic measures, including a HK$5,000 (US$645) fine for those who refused to wear a mask on public transport.
Before the launch of this rule, an elderly man refused to wear a mask on a bus. After other passengers complained, the bus driver gave the man a mask and asked him to put it on or leave the bus. The man did not give in. He was accused of being selfish by thousands of people on social media.
The picture of the bus driver talking to the man was turned into a graphic by bus company KMB to promote good hygiene on public transport.