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Karaoke cluster raises questions over closure rules

2020-03-31 HKT 17:47
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  • Karaoke cluster raises questions over closure rules
  • Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan (left) from the Centre for Health Protection says people should avoid going to karaoke during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: RTHK
    Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan (left) from the Centre for Health Protection says people should avoid going to karaoke during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: RTHK
Health officials said on Tuesday that five people out of a group of seven who went to karaoke together last week have been diagnosed with coronavirus, raising further questions as to whether such venues should be shut down alongside others ordered to close under new social distancing rules.

At a regular news briefing, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said the group had visited the Tsim Sha Tsui branch of Red MR last Tuesday.

One fell sick the same day and was confirmed to have Covid-19 on Monday, while the results of tests on four of the others have also now come back positive.

The remaining two people in the group are being placed in quarantine, officials said.

Chuang said it's likely the five had infected each other during their karaoke session and officials will look into whether any staff or other customers came into close contact with the group. But she said she believed the possibility of them having spread the virus further at the venue was not high, since they all stayed in the one room.

The government ordered the closure of many entertainment venues, like cinemas and gyms, for 14 days from March 28, to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

Karaokes were spared, but being as they hold a catering licence, they were told they need to follow rules for restaurants and bars on separating customers. Since March 29, there has also been a four-person limit on gatherings in most public places, indoors or outdoors.

Asked if the government needs to close karaokes in light of the cluster of cases, Chuang said she believed the government would take that outbreak into consideration.

"I think now we have the social distancing measures, people should try to avoid this type of activity. As when you sing, you won't wear a mask and usually you may have some drinks and very close contact," she said.

Red MR said it was closing its Tsim Sha Tsui branch for two days for disinfection work and it was arranging virus tests for its staff.

Officials reported a total of 32 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday. Of these, 24 patients had recently travelled outside Hong Kong. The new infections brought the SAR's total tally so far to 714.