For the first time in more than a month and a half, the number of new Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong has returned to single digits.
The number of new coronavirus cases dropped to just nine on Monday – the lowest since the beginning of July. Hong Kong has not seen a single-digit tally since 3 July.
Seven of the latest patients contracted the virus locally, of which four have no known sources. The two imported cases are a student returning to Hong Kong from Switzerland and a Filipino domestic helper.
Still, health authorities warned the city is not completely out of the woods because they were unable to pinpoint how some patients caught the virus.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said although the overall trend is on the decline, there is still ‘silent transmission’ within the community and the number of cases fluctuates on a daily basis.
“We have a single-digit number today, but we have more than 10 preliminary positive cases,” Chuang said, quoted by RTHK.
“I think from a public health point-of-view, any relaxation of social-distancing measures may result in an increase in the number of cases, but the actual measures may take into consideration from public-health measures as well as well as from other considerations,” she said.
She said the launch of a universal Covid-19 testing scheme could help identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus and could help stop the silent transmission of the virus within the community.
The number of Covid-19 cases recorded in Hong Kong now stands at 4,691. So far, 77 fatalities have been recorded.
Meanwhile, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said people will be able to register online for the universal Covid-19 test scheme by the end of this week.
Speaking on an RTHK radio programme, Nip said that people can make an appointment with a preferred testing station at a specific date and time, which will hopefully prevent people from crowding at the 100 stations across the city.
All individuals need to do is provide their name, ID card number, and phone number when they register. On the day of their appointment, they will be assigned a sample bottle with a number. If their sample yields a negative result, the individual will be notified via SMS.
Nip said that as long as people own a Hong Kong ID card and display no symptoms, then they can take part in the testing scheme, and foreign domestic helpers will also be allowed to be tested. He also urged companies to be flexible and allow employees to get tested during office hours.
The minister said people’s samples and information will stay in Hong Kong, and their personal details will be encrypted before they are destroyed a month after the tests are done.
He said that because the two-week scheme is voluntary, it’s hard to estimate how many people will take part. He said health authorities would still try to find asymptomatic carriers of the virus through the scheme, and that the government and the public needed to work together.
Meanwhile, a medical expert said on Monday that he thinks the government’s upcoming citywide Covid-19 testing scheme will identify only one-third of those infected in the community.
Dr Leung Chi-chiu of the Hong Kong Medical Association said these voluntary universal tests are unlikely to stop transmission because patients in the incubation period won’t be identified.
At the same time, those who test positive may already have spread the virus to others, he said.
“We need to test, I think, the whole city within a short time, and we … only have for example 100 testing centres, it’s almost impossible, I think, to avoid people crowding together at some point,” said Leung.
“The other problem is about the testing procedure because that will certainly lead to the citizens removing their masks temporarily and the collector [will] be exposed I think to possible [contamination risk] if the subject … sneezes or coughs during the process,” the doctor said.
(RTHK/ Macau News)