A virus outbreak was detected in a residential construction site in Hong Kong’s Tseung Kwan O Tuesday, resulting in at least 11 people being infected and forcing more than 900 workers to get tested for the coronavirus.
Three workers at the construction site for Lohas Park’s phase 9 project were found to be infected, while eight others tested positive preliminarily, Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the communicable diseases branch at the Center for Health Protection, said in a media briefing on Tuesday.
Some workers may have failed to wear their masks properly due to the long working hours, Chuang said.
“There are a lot of person-to-person contacts in the construction site. Not everyone can wear a mask because it’s quite hot sometimes. Sometimes, they work in an enclosed environment. So it is not unexpected that transmission may occur in this setting,” she said, adding that it was easy for the virus to spread at a building site.
However, Chuang said it was unlikely that the virus could be spread to residents in the other areas of Lohas Park as ordinary people did not go onto the construction site.
On Saturday, three people who lived in phase 2A and 3 in Lohas Park were found to be infected. One was asymptomatic, while the remaining two developed symptoms on November 23 and 25.
Most of the 70,000 residents and thousands of construction workers in Lohas Park commute by train on the MTR on a daily basis and use the same exit at the station.
The Center for Health Protection said a total of 82 cases, including 10 imported cases and 72 local infections, were reported on Monday. Thirty-two local cases were linked to the “dance club cluster,” while 17 cases were related to other previous infections.
Of the local infections, 23 had no known sources. Another 60 people tested positive preliminarily on Tuesday.
A number of staff and customers at a Tsim Sha Tsui restaurant, Pine Tree Hill Seafood, came down with the disease recently. Authorities are ordering people who visited the restaurant in the past two weeks to get tested for Covid-19.
Meanwhile, another doctor at Queen Elizabeth Hospital has become infected. He is a colleague of a doctor who was earlier confirmed to be infected. They were said to have traveled home together. The Hospital Authority said both work in a laboratory and didn’t come into contact with patients.
A substitute teacher who worked at West Island School and Chan Nam Cheong Memorial School has also caught the virus.
An outbreak at a care home for disabled people in Shau Kei Wan has expanded, with eight more people testing preliminary positive for the virus. This brings the total number of people affected at the home to 13.
The government said Tuesday that all staff working at care homes for the elderly and disabled people must get tested before December 14 at one of the government’s community testing centers or recognized private laboratories, in order to continue working between December 15 and 21.
It said most residents at care homes were frail elderly people whose life would be under serious threat if they were infected with Covid-19.
However, the government’s order was opposed by the Council of Social Service, which said the move would increase infection risks and seriously affect the operation of care facilities.
“We’re worried our workers’ risk of being infected would increase if they have to visit the testing centers. It would in turn put care home residents’ at risk,” said the council. The government should instead collect saliva specimens from care home workers or arrange testing staff to visit the care homes and collect samples for tests, it said.
On Tuesday morning, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said marine police had set up a designated hotline for people to report any big groups having parties on yachts.
With party rooms, night clubs and karaoke bars now ordered closed, some could try to rent out private yachts and party at sea, Lam said in a media briefing before attending the weekly Executive Council meeting.
Lam also called on people to avoid gatherings with friends or families outside or at home, saying the next couple of weeks is key to fighting the current wave of the pandemic.
“We are only halfway through the epidemic fight,” Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said. People should prepare for several more waves of the pandemic in 2021 as vaccines would only be available in Hong Kong next June and July, he said. All people in the city could get the jabs only by December 2021, he added.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government said it had talked to the Singapore government and decided to defer the “Air Travel Bubble” scheme between the two cities to next year due to the worsening situation in Hong Kong. It said the two governments would review the arrangement later this month.