A blood transfusion usually lasts about seven to 12 minutes. Photo: Hong Kong Red Cross

A critically-ill Hong Kong man died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital the day after he received blood platelets from a Covid-19 patient on December 20.

A donor who gave blood at the Red Cross Mongkok Donor Center on December 17 had tested positive for the coronavirus after his blood platelets were given to a patient, Sara Ho, chief manager of the Hospital Authority, said in a media briefing on Thursday.

It was highly likely that the patient died from his original illness, instead of the Covid-19 virus, Ho said. However, a thorough investigation would be conducted to ascertain the cause of his death, she added.

“In fact, he had a serious underlying disease, that’s why he needed platelets transfusion. The cause of death is likely related to his underlying disease and the case was already referred to the coroner and the coroner will conduct the relevant investigation,” she said.

It was the second time a patient was given blood platelets from a person infected with the coronavirus. A person donated blood at the West Kowloon Donor Center in July. Before he was identified as being infected on July 12, his blood platelets had been given to a patient at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Latest cases

Meanwhile, the Center for Health Protection said a total of 68 confirmed cases – six imported cases and 62 local infections – were recorded in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Of the local patients, 18 had no known sources.

On Wednesday, members of an advisory panel on Covid-19 vaccines, appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, held their first meeting.

The advisory panel was set up in accordance with the Prevention and Control of Disease (Use of Vaccines) Regulation (Cap. 599K), which provides the legal framework for bringing in Covid-19 vaccines that satisfy the criteria of safety, efficacy and quality for emergency use under the present state of a public health emergency. 

It was chaired by Wallace Lau Chak-sing, the President of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, and has 11 members.

Lam said there were a lot of challenges in Hong Kong’s Covid-19 vaccination scheme, which involved different vaccines and storage and logistic requirements. She said the advisory panel would try to clear public doubts on vaccines as people’s support of the scheme would be crucial for Hong Kong to end the pandemic.

Vaccination uncertainty

According to a survey conducted by the Liberal Party, only three in five people in Hong Kong would consider getting vaccinated, while the remaining number had no plans to do so.

The Liberal Party regarded it as an indication of the public’s uncertain attitude towards vaccination and urged the government to release more information and test data about the three vaccines, as well as increasing publicity to ease their doubts.

In the survey, 2,691 Hong Kong people were interviewed between December 22 and 27. Of the 1,600 respondents who indicated they plan to get vaccinated, 51.7% believed that the government should legislate to compel all residents in Hong Kong to be vaccinated, and 32.1% of them opposed that legislation.

Among the 1,112 respondents who wanted to make their own choice of vaccine, about 64% revealed that they would pick the one researched and developed in China.

The first batch of CoronaVac, a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, would not arrive in Hong Kong in January, but February, due to the delays in clinical trials, said David Hui Shu-cheong, chairman of the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

It’s likely that the first round of vaccinations in Hong Kong would use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, he said.

Before the vaccinations kick off, the Hong Kong government will continue to strictly enforce social-distancing rules in the territory.

Warnings issued

In a statement, the government said it would conduct mobile broadcasts in multiple languages and joint operations for three consecutive days at popular gathering places for foreign domestic workers between January 1 and 3.

It called on domestic workers to comply with the relevant requirements, exercise self-discipline and abide by the law. Relevant departments will take enforcement action against those who still refuse to abide by the regulations after repeated reminders.

“We remind domestic workers to strictly observe the requirements and appeal to them to avoid gatherings (including in boarding facilities), food sharing and other social activities on their rest days and stay at home for rest as far as possible to safeguard their personal health,” said a government spokesperson.

“We also encourage employers and domestic workers to discuss rest day arrangements, so as to minimize the health risk of participating in social activities.”
Employers must not compel their helpers to work on a rest day or they would be fined HK$50,000 (US$6,450), the spokesperson added.

The government issued the statement after Elizabeth Quat, a lawmaker with the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, urged the government to consider forbidding domestic workers from going out on their rest days.

Read: Residents in 43 HK buildings to be tested