Hong Kong on Tuesday confirmed that four new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases have been detected in the country following the mandatory mass testing ordered by health authorities.
Among the reported cases, at least three COVID-19 infections were reported among domestic helpers, including a confirmed case with a coronavirus variant, the Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection (CHP) reported.
One of them is a 48-year-old woman who arrived in Hong Kong from the Philippines on March 31, carrying the N501Y mutation, according to a report from South China Morning Post on Tuesday.
The helper completed her quarantine period in the Dorsett Wanchai hotel on April 21. She reportedly visited the Immigration Department building in Wan Chai and a clinic in Causeway Bay on the day she left the hotel. She moved in with her employers the next day.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the CHP, said the helper could have contracted the infection locally as she had spent some time in the community.
“As she carried the N501Y mutation, and also had a travel history, and her antibodies also tested positive upon hospital admission, therefore we cannot rule out this could be an imported case,” Chuang told the SCMP.
“We will see later whether to classify her as a local case. At the moment, we consider her as a possibly local case,” he said.
Health officials on Tuesday also ordered the evacuation and quarantining of occupants of more than 200 flats in Block R of Allway Gardens in Tsuen Wan To stop the potential risk of spread of the mutant strain. The building was also placed under overnight lockdown to test residents.
Also among the latest cases was a housewife who returned from India about a month ago and was infected with the N501Y mutation. It also resulted in the quarantine of all residents in the Tsim Sha Tsui block on Monday night, SCMP reported.
Two other helpers who were infected were also discovered through the mandatory testing program covering the city’s 370,000 domestic workers.
The two cases involved a helper in Kornhill Garden Block N and her friend in the Royalton at Pok Fu Lam. Both cases were classed as local infections as one of the helper was reportedly had just been staying in the city since arriving in 2019.
The new COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in Britain, Brazil, and South Africa, has health officials worried as it has been linked to more transmissible variants.
Recent infections among domestic workers suggested the virus had spread in their community, Infectious disease specialist Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan said.
“It is pretty certain to say there is a silent transmission chain going on among foreign helpers…and there could be more than one chain,” he added.
Respiratory medicine expert Dr Leung Chi-chiu, meanwhile, expressed concern over the two preliminary-positive helpers. “If they are not infected with variants, it will just be local transmission…it is not surprising to see if one among 370,000 workers got infected.”
Hong Kong started its COVID-19 vaccination drive on February 26. The city has recorded a total of 11,790 confirmed cases and 210 deaths.