Tram passengers in Hong Kong wear face masks as a precautionary measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus, March 12, 2020. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace

Local infections in Hong Kong surged on Wednesday, raising concerns that a fourth wave epidemic has begun as cases with unknown sources were reported across the city.

The Centre for Health Protection said 11 cases were reported, including two imported cases and nine local infections during the 24 hours on Tuesday. Among the locally infected patients, three were related to a previously identified cluster of Thai people while six could not be linked to previous cases.

Since October 1, several Thai hostesses who worked at China Secret bar and lived together in Holly Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui have been identified as patients. It was said that some male customers, including a 22-year-old student who studied in the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education in Tseung Kwan O were infected after visiting the bar on September 23.

Confirmed cases linked to China Secret bar increased to nine as of Tuesday. A 29-year-old male customer who lived in Hong Keung Court in Wang Tau Hom preliminarily tested positive on Wednesday.

A 38-year-old man who worked as a salesman in a pharmacy in Mong Kok felt ill on October 3 and was admitted to the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital. He tested positive on Tuesday, together with two colleagues. He was categorized as a case with an unknown source but his colleagues were categorized as having a traceable source.

A 57-year-old man who lived in a residential care home for people with disabilities in Kwai Chung was found to be infected. At least two people at the same care home have preliminarily tested positive. More than 30 people who lived or worked in the facility were sent to a quarantine center.

A 19-year-old student of the Hong Kong Baptist University developed symptoms on October 1. He attended classes between September 28 and 30. He and his 17-year-old family member, who studied in the Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O, tested positive on Tuesday. The duo had played basketball together and had a barbecue with relatives. The school announced on Wednesday that it would close down for two days for sterilization.

Being asked by media whether a fourth wave epidemic had begun, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, did not answer directly but said health officials were assessing the situation and were worried that local infections would continue to grow.

Health Secretary Sophia Chan said, “We are very careful about the current situation. We do not want the fourth wave to come unnecessarily early because we have not maintained vigilance in terms of our social distancing.

“In the past weekend, because of the fatigue, people were coming out and relaxing a little bit, which is understandable and probably inevitable.”

Chan said health officials and the police were working closely to check bars and catering businesses for compliance with anti-epidemic rules.

David Hui Shu-cheong, chairman of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Hong Kong was technically still at the end of the third wave. Hui said the fourth wave should be defined as an exponential growth in the number of local cases with days, for example, from several cases to dozens of cases or more than a hundred cases.

Ben Leung, convener of the Licensed Bar and Club Association, urged bar owners to meet social-distancing requirements to avoid being shut down by the government again.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Games, a citywide sport competition which was due to start in April, has been postponed to March 2022.

The inter-district competition – covering sports from tennis and volleyball, to athletics, futsal and swimming – has been held once every two years since 2007. However, due to the virus outbreak, organizers did not have time to select participating athletes. Also, most sports venues have been closed for months as an anti-Covid-19 measure.

The athlete selection process will now start in April next year. Spectators would only be allowed if circumstances permitted.

Read: HK extends epidemic rules as new cases pick up