A virus outbreak has been discovered at a care home for 50 disabled people in Shau Kei Wan on Hong Kong Island, with 80% of people in the facility testing positive on Tuesday.
A total of 48 disabled people and some members of staff were sent to quarantine centers. The Center for Health Protection said a disabled person and an employee at the Fong Shu Chuen Day Activity Centre and Hostel had initially tested positive on Sunday.
On Monday, the number of people infected in this cluster grew to five. On Tuesday, 39 more were identified.
Some of the infected may have not worn their masks properly while they were allowed to walk around in the facility, Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the communicable diseases branch at the Center for Health Protection, said in a media briefing on Wednesday.
In the “construction site cluster” in Hong Kong’s Lohas Park, the number of infected increased to 19 after 14 construction workers and two family members tested positive on Tuesday. Samples have been collected from 900 people at the construction site.
Lau Ka-hin, Chief Manager (Quality and Standards) at the Hospital Authority, said two patients and one physical therapist at the United Christian Hospital and a nurse at the Hong Kong Buddhist Hospital were found to be infected.
The Center for Health Protection said a total of 103 cases, including six imported cases and 97 local infections, were recorded on Tuesday. Of the local infections, 13 were from the “dance club” cluster, while 15 others had no known sources. More than 70 people tested positive preliminarily on Wednesday.
Those who were infected from unknown sources were living and working in different districts across Hong Kong, including North Point, Tai Wai, Kowloon Tong, Yau Tong and Fo Tan.
The Hong Kong government is considering raising the fine for those violating social distancing or mandatory mask-wearing rules from HK$2,000 (US$258) to HK$10,000 to deter people from breaking the rules, according to local media, which cited an unnamed source. The government will officially announce the raise in fines after clearing some legal hurdles.
David Hui Shu-cheong, Chairman of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said raising the fine would help increase the deterrent effect of anti-pandemic rules and control the disease.
However, he said the police and health officials had to check gatherings in private clubhouses and on yachts more frequently.
Ho Pak-leung, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s Center for Infection, said the worst of the fourth-wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong was yet to come and the number of local infections would continue to increase.
Ho said increasing the fine or tightening social distancing rules would not help much as construction workers may have to pull down their masks during work.
Netizens have mocked the government for using the wrong methods to fight the pandemic and having different standards in law enforcement. They said the police used social-distancing rules to suppress protests and fined customers at restaurants and bars and domestic workers who spent their rest days in Central and Causeway Bay.
However, none of the members from the “dance club cluster,” the biggest group in Hong Kong with more than 500 people infected, had been penalized so far.
Netizens also criticized the government’s plan to grant a HK$5,000 subsidy to each of those who lost their income due to their infections. They said many people would not stay vigilant to social distancing rules due to the subsidy scheme.
The Social Welfare Department told the media that it had set aside a budget of HK$26 million for the scheme.
On Tuesday evening, the government announced tightening requirements on group gatherings in a bid to stop the virus from spreading in the community.
“The local Covid-19 epidemic situation has entered into a critical stage. There have been several hundreds of confirmed cases reported from the large outbreak cluster caused by group gathering activities, notably dancing and singing, in indoor premises,” a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said in a statement.
“In addition, the emergence of a considerable number of local cases with unknown sources indicates that there are many silent transmission chains in the community.”
From Wednesday, the number of people allowed at wedding ceremonies, as well as shareholders’ meetings of listed companies, at which no food or drink is to be served, will be tightened from 50 to 20.
The exemption on group gatherings in relation to religious activities and local tours will be removed.
The Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong announced on Wednesday that its annual Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo, originally set to be held between December 12 and January 4 would be postponed due to the worsening pandemic. More than 300 manufacturers were affected.