Hong Kong’s COVID-19 free streak comes to an end after seven months
Two Hong Kong residents have been diagnosed with Covid-19, marking the first local infections in nearly seven months to people without a recent travel history or ties to the industry.
Both infections were linked to an air crew member who tested positive for the Omicron variant after he moved about the city following an overseas flight.
The first community cluster of Omicron, which infects 70 times faster than previous strains, underscores the risk for Hong Kong’s Covid Zero strategy, which has kept local cases at bay since early June.
One patient, a 76-year-old man, is the father of the air crew member. He had lunch with his son and another woman at Moon Palace, an upscale, traditional Chinese restaurant in Kowloon Tong on Dec 27, government officials said during a briefing Friday.
The other is a 34-year-old man who was at the same eatery, seated 10m away, on the same afternoon with three family members.
The potential Omicron risk led officials to mandate testing for everyone who lives in the same buildings as them. Officials are concerned about a 5th wave. The border with mainland China remains closed as officials are prioritizing zero covid.
Vaccination will soon be mandatory for more activities, including all indoor dining and going to the cinema, while a 500-bed field hospital is being reopened in case additional capacity is needed. All eligible adults are being encouraged to get booster shots starting on Jan 1.
Five Cathay aircrew members have recently tested positive for the Omicron variant after returning to Hong Kong from duty, and some of them breached protocols and failed to comply with medical surveillance regulations, the airline’s general manager of corporate affairs Andy Wong said in a statement on Friday.
Describing their actions as “extremely disappointing”, Wong apologized and said the company will launch disciplinary procedures.
Crew members must limit their outings to only essential trips during their first three days back from overseas duties. Some, including those ultimately found to be infected, have instead gone to bars, restaurants and other venues.
The city of 7.4 million people has reported a total of 12,650 cases and 213 deaths throughout the Covid pandemic.