The number of new coronavirus cases in Hong Kong hit a one-month high on Monday, reaching triple figures.
Health authorities reported 107 new infections. One hundred and two are locally acquired, including a family of eight. Forty-two patients contracted the virus via unknown sources.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said 28 of the latest cases came from buildings in Yau Ma Tei and Jordan that are now under a mandatory coronavirus testing order.
Residents of seven more buildings in the area – on Shanghai Street, Reclamation Street, Temple Street, Canton Road and Battery Street – are ordered to undergo mandatory testing after cases were reported from their blocks.
Chuang warned of an exponential rise in cases.
“The high number partly is due to the result of compulsory testing which is expected. But the number is a bit high. This signifies that there’s still quite significant silent transmission in the community, especially in Yau Ma Tei area,” she said.
“If any of these cases visited any high-risk area or are exposed to many people, there may be exponential increase as in previous outbreaks.”
Officials also said that based on their data, more than a quarter of some 600 Covid patients recorded since early January are of South Asian descent, and many of them live in Yau Ma Tei.
“They usually live in quite crowded areas with close-knitted community, so they may spread the infection through the environmental contamination and also person-to-person interaction to their families and friends in the streets or in the parks,” Chuang said.
“They may have some social gatherings such as smoking and drinking during the evenings and also other activities… they like to visit each other and they like to sleep over in each other’s home.”
Professor Ivan Hung, who heads the infectious diseases division at the Hong Kong University Department of Medicine, said the next several days will be key to the outbreak in Yau Ma Tei and Jordan.
"We have to see in the next two or three days if we are able to – you know, with the effective contact tracing -- contain the community outbreak to within 30 to 40 cases in the next few days, then hopefully the number of cases will come down because as a whole, I think, apart from this small community outbreak, the so-called fourth wave is very much under control right now," he said.
Meanwhile, health authorities said a doctor who works at the intensive care unit in North District Hospital has tested preliminary positive for the virus. The Hospital Authority said the doctor performed intubation on a Covid patient earlier this month and was wearing full protective gear.
And a partial evacuation has been ordered for residents of a public housing block in Chai Wan after about 10 cases were reported from five units in Hiu Fung House at Fung Wah Estate.
Three of the flats end with the number "13" and are on different floors but face the same direction.
After inspecting the building on Monday, Professor Yuen Kwok-yung of the University of Hong Kong said residents of unit 1213 fell ill first, followed by those in units 913 and 1113, where vent pipes had been altered.
That raised fears that the virus might have spread in a downward vertical direction.
Residents of units ending with "13" on or below the 12th floor will be evacuated.
Last updated: 2021-01-18 HKT 18:45