More clusters 'may mean return of distancing rules' - RTHK
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More clusters 'may mean return of distancing rules'

2020-05-14 HKT 09:06
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  • Tsuen Wan, where both the new local Covid-19 patients live. File image: Shutterstock
    Tsuen Wan, where both the new local Covid-19 patients live. File image: Shutterstock
A microbiologist has warned that recently relaxed social distancing measures may have to be reintroduced if more clusters of coronavirus emerge after Hong Kong's first local cases in more than three weeks were reported on Wednesday.

Health authorities are testing hundreds of people in the Tsuen Wan area after a 66-year-old woman and her five-year-old granddaughter tested positive, the first cases not involving recent travel to be reported in 23 days.

Dr Siddharth Sridhar, an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said the public should not panic about the new cases but should remain vigilant.

He saw no immediate need for the reintroduction of a series of social distancing measures that were withdrawn last week. Bars, gyms, cinemas and beauty centres were allowed to reopen and a ban on group gatherings of more than four was relaxed to allow groups of up to eight.

"If you see more clusters coming up across Hong Kong you might need a reintroduction of at least some of the more stringent social distancing measures that have been relaxed," Sridhar said.

"So it's a very volatile situation and we just have to deal with it day by day in terms of the new information that we get.

"The way to go is to be vigilant, to continue to wear masks, hand hygiene, avoid crowded areas as much as possible and, on the part of the government, extensive testing, epidemiological investigation, contact tracing etc."

The two new cases, plus another involving a man who'd returned from Pakistan, took the total in Hong Kong to 1,050. Several members of the Tsuen Wan family are showing symptoms of the virus in quarantine.

The Centre for Health Protection has launched extensive testing, including for all residents of the blocks where the two patients lived, staff at market stalls the grandmother visited and pupils and employees of a tutorial centre the child visited.

Several senior microbiologists have urged the government to greatly increase testing in the community to reduce the chance of new outbreaks.