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Wednesday, Mar 03, 2021

Hong Kong confirms five new Covid-19 cases; police to help track down bar patrons

Officials trying to locate source of infection of 22-year-old student who visited the bar in Kowloon.
Hong Kong’s health authorities have asked police to help investigate a possible coronavirus cluster at a bar in a Kowloon nightlife hotspot, as the city confirmed five new infections on Sunday.

A student who visited the China Secret bar in Tsim Sha Tsui on September 23 earlier tested positive, and officials are trying to determine whether a Thai woman, who was previously confirmed infected, was also there the same night. As a precautionary measure, four employees and seven other customers have been quarantined, with authorities racing to track down other patrons.

“For now, we suspect the [Thai woman] was at China Secret bar that night,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection. “She might have been sitting at the next table. But we haven’t been able to confirm this. Bars and karaoke lounges are high-risk places, and thus we have contacted the person in charge of the bar and are contacting the customers. We have asked police to help.”

Chuang said there were seven tables of customers on the night the student went to the bar, and he recalled seeing Thai women at the next table. China Secret is located on the third floor of the Lee Chau Commercial Building on Hart Avenue. The Liquor Licensing Board’s online registry has no records of the bar being a licensed premise, but Club Bro registered at the same address does have a permit.

The student attends the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education at its Lee Wai Lee campus in Tseung Kwan O, and last visited on September 29. More than 2,000 students and teachers will undergo testing, while the campus has been closed for two weeks.

Details of the 26-year-old Thai woman remain unclear. Health authorities said she arrived in Hong Kong in March and has not been able to return home, without elaborating.

Chuang said the woman has not confirmed her whereabouts from September 23 to 27. Neither would she confirm if she had ever been to China Secret.

Police said the woman’s name matched one listed in the bar’s reservation records, although some people might not use their real names to make bookings, according to Chuang. Officers are looking into her activities in the city.

A police spokesman confirmed the Centre for Health Protection had asked for assistance to help cut the coronavirus transmission chain as soon as possible.

Three of Sunday’s five new cases were imported, two from Nepal and one from Russia. The sole untraced local case involved a 27-year-old homemaker of Thai origin who lived at Wang Yung House in Tsing Yi’s Cheung Wang Estate.

She met a friend from Thailand and they spent two days together last month, visiting places including Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui. The woman lost contact with the friend after she flew home, and she probably tested positive upon arrival, according to Chuang,

“We have contacted Thailand’s health authorities to try to understand her situation,” Chuang said.

The latest infections pushed the city’s Covid-19 tally to 5,113, with 105 related deaths.

As the daily number of cases gradually declines, the government has slowly eased social-distancing rules and allowed most venues that were closed to reopen.

Residents took advantage of the long holiday weekend that began with National Day on October 1, and which coincided with the Mid-Autumn Festival, to head outside, either shopping, dining or visiting scenic nature spots.

Mainland China has started its eight-day “golden week”, with millions of people expected to travel domestically, although few tourists are coming
to Hong Kong this year because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The city’s No 2 official, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, wrote on his blog that the administration had been discussing a scheme to allow people who tested negative for Covid-19 to travel between Hong Kong and Macau without the need to quarantine for two weeks. But he stressed this would only happen once the Hong Kong outbreak had stabilised.

Meanwhile, the former vice-chancellor of Chinese University, Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, said that given no Covid-19 vaccines were ready yet, the best way to control the pandemic was through testing and ensuring gatherings were kept small.

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