A girl wearing a face shield and mask plays on the sidewalk in Tsuen Wan West, Hong Kong, on April 23, 2022. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
Hong Kong health authorities on Tuesday confirmed 250 new COVID-19 cases, as they reported “possibly a small-scale outbreak” at a kindergarten school in the city.
No new virus-related deaths were reported for a fourth straight day.
Of the new cases, which took the city’s tally to 1,210,836 cases, eight carried the Omicron BA.2.12.1 sub-variant, Dr Albert Au, Principal Medical and Health Officer of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said at a press briefing in the afternoon.
Thirty-four of the newly reported cases are imported while the rest are locally transmitted. Twenty-four of the imported cases were detected during testing upon their arrival at the Hong Kong International Airport, while six others tested positive during quarantine at their hotels.
Eighty-nine cases were confirmed via PCR tests, while 161 returned positive in rapid antigen tests.
Meanwhile, 18 infections were reported in 13 schools. Of them, 16 are students and two staff members.
Six cases were reported in a classroom of St. Catherine's International Kindergarten. There were two cases in the morning session and four in the afternoon session
Among the schools are four kindergartens, involving seven pupils and two teachers-staff. "There is one primary school with one infected student and eight secondary schools with eight students," said Au.
Six cases were reported in a classroom of St. Catherine's International Kindergarten, he said. There were two cases in the morning session and four in the afternoon session.
The kindergarten had at least two classes suspended after five afternoon-class students tested positive via rapid tests, local media reported, after health authorities collected environmental samples from the kindergarten.
The kindergarten has 30 classes, with more than 1,000 students and 100 staff members, health officials said, as they stressed that they didn’t see any other classes affected.
“Rapid antigen tests conducted (by students and teachers) today and over the past few days were negative. So, even if there is a cluster, it’s limited to a class,” said Au.
Even though the students were wearing face masks, they are very young and might not have worn it properly all the time, he pointed out, requesting the parents to get their children vaccinated to protect them against the virus.
Of the eight BA.2.12.1 cases, four were imported, including two from the same family in the US. The remaining four cases were local cases or import-related cases, involving the McDonald's restaurant cluster and other confirmed cases earlier. So far, the city has recorded 64 BA.2.12.1 cases, including 58 imported cases.
Au also said three more customers of a McDonald's restaurant in Taikoo Shing – a woman, her two-year-old boy and her helper – have been infected with the virus, raising the total number to eight.
Saying that the three, and five others who were infected earlier, all carried the BA.2.12.1 sub-variant, he said: "We believe there's an outbreak of BA.2.12.1 at this restaurant.”
The cluster has so far seen eight infections scattered over five tables, as well as one home contact, which was the boy's mother.
Asked about the BA.2.12.1 sub-variant, Au said citing preliminary data from World Health Organization that although the sub-variant was more transmissible, there was no relevant statistic to suggest that it may increase the risk of serious illness or death.
Meanwhile, the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel added one more case that was related to two other previous cases in this cluster.
Speaking at the same briefing, Hospital Authority's chief manager Larry Lee Lap-yip said there was no COVID-19-related death on Monday, with the city's death tally standing at 9,157.
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