A top medical expert warned on Sunday that Hong Kong is now experiencing its first sustained local coronavirus outbreak, and the virus is now spreading at its fastest pace yet in the territory.
The Dean of Hong Kong University's Faculty of Medicine, Gabriel Leung, told a radio programme said the reproductive number of the virus has risen to nearly four – meaning that every infected person can now be expected to pass the virus on to almost four more people.
He was speaking as health authorities have been confirming a record-high number of locally transmitted cases – dozens of which cannot be linked to previous infections.
“Given the high baseline rate and [that] there is no sign of abatement of this trajectory and that real-time reproductive number of three to four, I think that we have now, or we have already entered Hong Kong’s first sustained local outbreak”, Leung said.
He said the current surge is different than a previous spike in cases in March, where most of the cases were imported from abroad.
“I think that over the next one or two weeks, we really need to reapply some of the suppression measures that we have successfully deployed previously to control the outbreak.”
Professor Leung, who has also been advising the government on its handling of the pandemic, called for extensive testing to be carried out on elderly people living in care homes in East Kowloon – a high-risk area linked to many recent cases.
“We must protect in particular high-risk individuals. We’ve already had 80 percent attack rate in one nursing home. We must, must make very sure that this does not proceed to a second, let alone a third, or more such nursing home facilities”, he said.
Leung urged people to restrict their social circles to their immediate family, avoid crowded places and large scale events – especially those held indoor without adequate ventilation.