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More cases emerge as shoppers flock to reopened mall

2021-03-06 HKT 18:59
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  • More cases emerge as shoppers flock to reopened mall
Health officials say they are investigating two more Covid-19 cases involving people who visited the K11 Musea shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, which saw a major outbreak linked to a restaurant.

The announcement came as the mall reopened on Saturday following a week-long closure due to an outbreak centred on a now-closed Chinese restaurant – Mr Ming’s Chinese Dining. Large crowds gathered as the doors reopened.

Fifty people linked to the restaurant, including staff, customers and their close contacts, have come down with the virus. And officials said there are now six cases involving people who had been to the mall but not the restaurant – including four linked to a Cartier store.

Dr Albert Au of the Centre for Health Protection says they are looking at how the two latest patients who had recently visited the mall – one of whom is a confirmed case, the other preliminary positive – contracted the illness.

The confirmed case only briefly used the toilet on the ground floor on February 24, while the preliminary positive case – a 32-year-old man – watched a movie and used the fourth floor toilet on February 26.

“Our preliminary investigation showed that both cases are of unknown source at this moment. But judging from the time of visiting K11 Musea and also the date of onset, it is possible that both cases might have acquired the infections in K11 Musea. It cannot be excluded,” Au said.

“Our investigation is still ongoing. Judging from their history and their visit, the possibility of getting the infections from K11 Musea exists, but the chance is not that high,” he added.

Au said they will work with experts at the University of Hong Kong to carry out genetic sequencing of samples collected from the two new cases, to see whether they are linked to a previous outbreak at the mall.

HKU microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung, who advises the government on the pandemic, said experts are working on two theories as to why three out of the six people who hadn't been to Mr Ming's Chinese Dining were also infected with Covid.

He said one possible reason was that the three people, working in the Cartier jewelry shop and Twinkie Cookies, may have smoked just next to the exhaust fan of the restaurant, or they were infected when they went to the refuse room.

The mall's owners closed it down for cleaning and terminated the lease of the Chinese restaurant after concerns emerged over its ventilation system. Staff returning to work were told to provide a negative test for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, health authorities reported eight new coronavirus cases and more than 10 preliminary positive cases on Saturday in total.

Four of the newly confirmed cases were locally acquired, including two without a clear source. Four preliminary positive cases also do not have a known source, including a private doctor.