It may be several weeks before Hong Kong can track the source of all local Covid-19 infections, medical experts say.
The Center for Health Protection said Monday that 14 cases were identified during the 24 hours on Sunday, including two imported cases, nine that could be linked to local infections and three with unknown sources.
On Saturday, 11 local infections and eight imported cases were identified with three of the local cases having unknown sources. During the day, three patients were identified by mass virus tests, including a 41-year-old Indonesian domestic worker who lived with her employers in Lai King Disciplined Services Quarters. The other two included a 75-year-old local man in Cheung Sha Wan and a 65-year-old female patient in Tuen Mun Hospital.
The government’s two-week mass testing scheme was set to end on Monday with about 1.72 million people being tested and 26 patients identified as of Sunday evening.
The number of participants exceeded 20% of the population and reached the government target, Civil Service Secretary Patrick Nip said.
He said the current wave of infections had not ended and the government would continue to test high-risk groups.
Ivan Hung, a clinical professor at Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, said Hong Kong would have to spend four to six more weeks to record no new local cases because there were at least 40 to 50 asymptomatic patients in the community.
Hung said the government should increase capacity to 15,000 to 20,000 daily tests. He said it would be ideal if everyone could be tested in their district whenever they want. This was very important because the next wave could happen in winter.
David Hui Shu-cheong, chairman of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said mass testing was worthwhile even though only 26 patients had been identified. Hui said these patients could have infected many others in the community and created a heavy medical cost to the city. Hui said last month that he hoped 4-5 million people would take part in the tests.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Center for Health Protection, said it was actually good that the tests had not found many infected people.
“But it also proves that there are indeed some cases in the community, so we have to be vigilant and keep up with our personal hygiene,” said Chuang.
While Hong Kong aimed for a virus-free environment next month, the number of new daily infections in the world reached a high of 307,930 on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to more than 28.64 million, according to the World Health Organization.
Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, has warned that there could be a rebound of more than 100 local cases a day in coming weeks as some social distancing measures are relaxed.
Leung said there had been fatigue among the public in fighting the epidemic and many people had been going out since the government relaxed some restrictions in recent weeks.
With resumption of civil servants working in offices, students resuming face-to-face classes, and the Mid-Autumn Festival next month, the next two weeks will be an important key in seeing whether there is a rebound in infections, Leung said.
Leung urged the public to try to stay home as much as possible in the coming two weeks.
Some restaurants were dropping their guard as business started to rebound after some restrictions were eased last week, said Simon Wong, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades.
Wong said eateries returned to around 80% of pre-pandemic business in the past weekend after four people were allowed per table and dining extended until 10pm.
He told RTHK that some eateries had failed to meet the anti-epidemic requirements as they did not check customers’ temperatures at the door, exceeded 50% of their seating capacity and did not keep 1.5 meters between tables or guests. He urged restaurant staff not to become too relaxed with enforcing social distancing, and to maintain vigilance until the pandemic is under control.
On Monday, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, a pro-Beijing political party, said the government should launch a health code system, which allows people to travel across the border between Hong Kong and Guangdong province, before the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on National Day on October 1. It said there was no need to wait for a 14-day period with zero infections before launching this system.
Political activist Joshua Wong wrote in an article on Sunday that he opposed the implementation of a health code system as it would be used by the government to track people’s locations and limit their freedom of movement.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the health code system would be launched once there had been no more cases with unknown sources.