This photo taken on Jan 10, 2021 shows the Caribbean Coast housing estate in Tung Chung, Hong Kong. (GU MENGYAN / CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG - Hong Kong will quarantine residents of a roughly 400-unit apartment building for 21 days and test all of the city’s 370,000 foreign domestic helpers after finding the first locally acquired case of a COVID-19 variant.
The infected person was a 39-year-old domestic helper living in a building in the Caribbean Coast complex in the Tung Chung neighborhood, the government said. A 10-month-old baby who lived with her was also infected, it said.
All foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong will need to be tested for COVID-19 by May 9, Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee said at a Friday briefing. Exemptions will apply to helpers who have completed two vaccine doses at least 14 days prior.
All foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong will need to be tested for COVID-19 by May 9, Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee said. Exemptions will apply to helpers who have completed two vaccine doses at least 14 days prior
The government is also planning to amend the visa requirement for domestic helpers, including asking for inoculation proof of a recognized vaccine for contract renewal, said Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong at the same briefing.
“The reason is not to have any prejudice against any particular group, the whole consideration is about risk,” said Lam. “The nature of their work is looking after family members, and many of them are very elderly. Also because of them staying in Hong Kong, during the rest day, they have to meet friends, take a break but then that may cause a risk of cross-family infection, so the whole consideration is a matter of risk.”
Chan said that the two vaccines available in Hong Kong are effective against the mutant strain and urged the public to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
The 52-story building was cordoned off around 7 pm Thursday for a compulsory testing exercise. All of the hundreds of residents were required to take COVID-19 tests, and will be taken to serve their three-week quarantine in government centers even if they test negative.
Lam Man-kin, Controller of Centre for Health Protection of Department of Health, told reporters at a late Thursday briefing in Tung Chung that the source of the person’s infection remained unknown.
He said preliminary test results showed the variant N501Y, which was first found in South Africa, and a mutation, E484K, which may help the pathogen resist vaccines and antibody treatments.
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As the adult patient visited a church in Tsing Yi earlier this month, the CHP will also arrange compulsory quarantine for her close contacts and conduct virus testing for other related people, according to a government statement.
Residents line up to receive COVID-19 tests at temporary testing stations in Tung Chung, Hong Kong, April 30, 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
With the appearance of the variant in communities, the CHP warned of the severity of the situation and called on the public to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
READ MORE: HK logs 15 imported COVID-19 cases, bars reopen
The domestic helper, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2019, developed a cough on April 23 and visited a doctor three days later. She was tested for the virus on Tuesday.
Hong Kong recorded four new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including two local cases with the N501Y mutation, pushing the city’s overall infection tally to 11,774
The domestic helper was found to have visited St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Tsing Yi on April 11 and 18, where a compulsory testing notice would be issued to visitors and staff.
During the incubation period, she had also visited Fu Tung Plaza, Man Tung Road Park, Citygate shopping mall and a Fusion outlet, all in Tung Chung.
Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, co-chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, said on a radio program Friday morning that the COVID-19 variants, imported from overseas, had likely spread after transmission chains were formed during daily activities.
Hong Kong recorded four new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including two local cases with the N501Y mutation, pushing the city’s overall infection tally to 11,774.
The two imported cases on Friday were from India and Nepal, respectively.
On late Thursday, the Hong Kong government announced a ban on all passenger flights from Nepal for two weeks after the city logged 13 cases imported from the country the same day. No flight from Nepal can fly to Hong Kong starting Saturday, in addition to flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines that had been prohibited earlier.
A blanket ban on flights comes into force if, in a seven-day span, five or more passengers from a certain place are found to be carrying the N501Y variant upon arrival.
Since Hong Kong launched a COVID-19 vaccination drive on Feb 26, around 897,100 people have received the first dose of vaccine so far and about 480,500 the second.
With inputs from Agencies
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