A man walks through a basketball court at a popular Instagram spot in the Choi Hung Estate in Hong Kong on July 5, 2020. (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)
HONG KONG - Hong Kong was facing another community outbreak of the coronavirus as the financial hub reported its largest number of local coronavirus transmission cases in almost three months.
The special administrative region reported 14 new cases on Tuesday, five of them imported and nine local. Five of the local cases were of unknown origin, officials said.
Over the weekend, Hong Kong’s local epidemic rapidly changed. The situation is very severe. The new local cases are quite a lot. We will increase monitoring.
Wong Ka-hing, Controller, Centre for Health Protection
“The next few days are very crucial,” said Wong Ka-hing Controller of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“Over the weekend, Hong Kong’s local epidemic rapidly changed,” said Wong. “The situation is very severe. The new local cases are quite a lot. We will increase monitoring.”
One of the new cases was found in a nursing home for the elderly, where two more people have been preliminarily tested positive for the virus, said CHP's Communicable Disease Branch Chuang Shuk-kwan.
Given the change in the epidemic situation in Hong Kong since last week, Wong said starting from Wednesday, all those arriving via the Hong Kong International Airport, including flight crew members, will be required to have their deep throat saliva samples collected for testing upon arrival.
The HKSAR government's Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee told the media on Tuesday evening that in view of the emergence of multiple local cases with unknown source of infection, several measures will be taken to prevent more outbreaks in Hong Kong.
Besides the specimen collection requirement on inbound travelers and flight crew, the HKSAR government will consult with authorities in countries including Nepal and Pakistan to make arrangements and control the number of people arriving in Hong Kong from these areas.
Foreign domestic helpers arriving in Hong Kong will be required to present proof of negative testing result for COVID-19, and their employers will be required to arrange for them to undergo a 14-day quarantine in hotels upon their arrival.
The HKSAR government will consider more measures including stricter restriction on the number of diners in restaurants when needed, Chan said.
The emergence of hidden transmission chains of the virus, which can be spread via asymptomatic carriers, is a setback for a city that had largely succeeded in containing the disease for months. It also occurs two weeks after the government’s latest easing of social-distancing restrictions.
Hong Kong isn’t alone in battling flare-ups of the disease. Australia’s second-largest city recently re-entered virus lockdown, while Tokyo continues to find more than a hundred new coronavirus cases daily.
Hong Kong had only reported about a dozen of new local cases in June. In total, the city has reported roughly 1,300 cases since late January and seven deaths.
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