Coronavirus: May keep tighter social-distancing rules in place another five weeks, while school campuses to remain shut until after Lunar New Year

  • Connexions
  • 2021-01-18
  • 1370

“The government will continue the current measures for two more weeks until January 20. Based on the current situation, the chance of relaxing the measures before the Lunar New Year is unlikely,” health minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said.

“The number of cases is going down, [but] not as fast as we would like to see in terms of the overall downward trend. If there is a significant rebound of cases, we will not rule out adopting more stringent measures to further reduce the flow of people and group gatherings.”

Chan noted that more than 90 per cent of the 812 new infections logged between December 21 and January 3 were locally transmitted, while about a third were from unknown sources.

“Allowing students from certain forms to return to school is better for schools to have longer-term planning. They now have four or five weeks to plan which years’ students can come back first,” Yeung said. “They can also see how studying from home and face-to-face lessons can tally with each other.”

No more than a sixth of the student population would be allowed to return to school on any given day, he said. Secondary schools can arrange for different years to return for half a day in the morning or afternoon, while primary schools will be allowed to arrange half-day classes or exams in the morning.

Tutorial schools can organise half-day lessons for no more than a sixth of their student body, while special schools will be subject to the same arrangements as regular ones, and kindergartens are still limited to holding online classes.

Authorities said 10 of the latest cases were imported and 43 were local infections, including 11 people linked to the Tseung Kwan O-Lam Tin tunnel, where a fresh cluster has broken out following one last month involving 28 cases.

The city has recorded 9,017 confirmed infections and 153 coronavirus-related fatalities, including three chronically ill patients whose deaths were reported on Monday.

An outbreak at the day ward at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung prompted health authorities to issue a mandatory testing order for anyone who had been to the premises on the ground floor of block E since December 28. One person has been confirmed as infected, while two patients, a doctor and a nurse tested preliminary-positive.

It was the second cluster to emerge at a public hospital in less than two weeks after an outbreak at the palliative care ward at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong last month.

Princess Margaret revealed 23 patients from the ward, 15 staff and two visitors were deemed close contacts and would be required to quarantine.

After inspecting the hospital in the afternoon, Yuen said the virus was likely transmitted by a 66-year-old woman who suffered from bone marrow cancer and stayed in the ward on December 28.

The woman, who was later found to have a high viral load, spent about 30 minutes eating lunch with her mask off, which was probably how the virus spread to staff and patients, he said, noting her bed was close to the two other patients and the work area for the doctor and the nurse.

“We can see that the transmission was a short-distance airborne transmission,” he said, adding ward services had to stop or be limited.

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