Residents waited to be tested at a COVID-19 Mobile Vaccination Station at Maple Street Playground in Sham Shui Po Jan 14, 2022. (PHOTO/HKSAR GOVERNMENT)
HONG KONG - Hong Kong reported 351 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the highest daily count since the pandemic began more than two years ago.
During a media briefing, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee described the city's COVID-19 situation as "aggravating" and "extremely worrying", as Saturday's virus count more than doubled the 131 cases recorded on Friday.
The cross-family gatherings during the just-concluded Lunar New Year holiday have led to an increase of COVID-19 cases, just as the Centre for Health Protection predicted, Chan said.
We expect the number of confirmed cases to expand exponentially in the coming days.
Sophia Chan, Secretary for Food and Health
"We expect the number of confirmed cases to expand exponentially in the coming days," she added, appealing for members of the public to stay at home to fight the virus.
In light of the rapid increase in infections, Phase 1 of the government's Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre will be converted into a community quarantine facility by next week at the earliest to admit asymptomatic patients and those with mild symptoms.
Meanwhile, close contacts of confirmed cases will be isolated at home for four days under the "Stay Home Safe" scheme, Chan said. They will be required to wear a smart waistband and undergo regular testing, she added.
The move will allow more hospital beds to be freed up for COVID-19 patients with more severe symptoms.
Chan added that the government is expediting the procurement of rapid test kits in a bid to provide such kits for all Hong Kong residents this month.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, said at the same briefing that Saturday’s new COVID-19 cases comprised eight imported infections and 343 local cases, with the majority of the total being Omicron-variant cases.
The confirmed cases also included more than 20 suspected Delta-variant infections.
Out of the 343 local infections, more than 180 were known to be linked to previous cases while authorities are still investigating the sources of about 160 cases, Chuang said.
The government has also advised that Yuen Long Plaza be closed for thorough disinfection after a number of people working there were confirmed infected
The cases were scattered across the city, including Wong Tai Sin, To Kwa Wan and Sham Shui Po districts in Kowloon; as well as Tsuen Wan, Sha Tin, and Tuen Mun districts in the New Territories.
The government will arrange the evacuation of some residents of Hing Ping House at Tai Hing Estate in Tuen Mun, and 104 Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po as officials suspect vertical transmissions in the buildings, Chuang said.
The government has also advised that Yuen Long Plaza be closed for thorough disinfection after a number of people working there were confirmed infected. They included cleaners and security guards as well as employees of home-appliance shop Fortress, Japanese restaurant Gyu-Kaku and Chinese restaurant Chao Inn.
The new infections brought the tally in the financial hub to 14,586. There were also around 200 preliminarily positive cases, Chuang said.
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