Microbiologist Ho Pak-leung warned on Tuesday that local hospitals should be prepared because as many as 100 Hongkongers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship could be diagnosed with the new coronavirus after their return to the city
The government is arranging two charter flights to Tokyo to bring home the 350 Hong Kong residents, who have been quarantined on the vessel docked off the coast of Yokohama for around two weeks. They are expected to return on Thursday.
Speaking on am RTHK’s programme, Dr Ho said since the ship is contaminated, 10 to 30 percent of those on board may be infected with Covid-19.
When the boat arrived in Japan earlier this month, authorities initially tested nearly 300 people of the 3,711 aboard for the virus, gradually evacuating dozens who were infected to local medical facilities. Since then, the number people who tested positive have grown to more than 450.
Ho criticised the Japanese authorities for failing to contain the spread of the virus right from the beginning, after a 80-year-old former passenger from Hong Kong was diagnosed with the disease on February 1, a week after leaving the vessel.
He said the number of confirmed cases on the vessel shows an infection rate that's higher than the Sars outbreak at Amoy Garden in 2003. He added that as many as 70 people out of 450 infected people never developed symptoms of the disease.
Ho, who heads the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection, also agreed with government plans to quarantine the passengers for another 14 days after repatriating them from Japan, saying this is a safe approach.
Ho said the government needs to arrange an inspection of the ventilation and sewage system at the Fo Tan housing estate where the residents will be quarantined, to prevent the spread of any viruses.
'Up to 100 Hongkongers on cruise could be infected'
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