Hong Kong tracks down COVID patient contacts, orders cruise ship to return to port

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship “Spectrum of the Seas” is seen docked at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong, China on October 22, 2021. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

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HONG KONG, Jan.5 (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday launched a citywide contact search of a patient with COVID-19 and ordered a Royal Caribbean ship to “cruise to nowhere” (RCL.N) to get back to port early. , as health officials feared a fifth wave of infections.

A COVID-19 government adviser told local media he estimates there are as many as 10 invisible chains of transmission in the community and, along with two other expert advisers, urged the government to tighten restrictions.

The global financial center has stuck to a zero Covid strategy by largely isolating itself from the world and enforcing a draconian and costly quarantine regime.

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On December 31, a three-month streak without community cases ended with the first local transmission of the new variant of Omicron. Read more

Since then, authorities have rushed to locate and test hundreds of people who had come in contact with a handful of Omicron patients.

“The strictest anti-epidemic measures will be implemented to prevent the spread of the mutant strains,” the government said in a statement.

The latest hunt was started by a patient who danced with about 20 friends in a central park on New Year’s Eve. Two of the fellow dancers, one of whom was a housekeeper, tested positive in preliminary tests.

The assistant’s employer and eight other relatives then took a cruise on January 2.

As part of its coronavirus restrictions, Hong Kong has limited cruises to short trips in nearby waters, with ships being asked to operate at reduced capacity and only allow vaccinated passengers who test negative for the virus. virus.

The ship “Spectrum of the Seas”, which returned a day earlier, had approximately 2,500 passengers and 1,200 personnel on board. The nine passengers in close contact were isolated from the rest of those on board and preliminary tests carried out during the trip gave negative results, authorities said.

“Spectrum of the Seas is taking appropriate action in accordance with Department of Health guidelines,” Royal Caribbean told Reuters in a statement.

The nine close contacts will be sent to a quarantine center, while the rest of the passengers and staff will have to undergo several mandatory tests in the coming days, the government said.

Additionally, people who visited dozens of places in Hong Kong around the same time as close contacts of recent patients received mandatory testing notices, the government said in a separate statement.

Sites include Central Victoria Park, the recently opened M + Museum of Modern Art, ferry piers, restaurants, shops, clinics and more.

Gabriel Leung, dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and government adviser, told public broadcaster RTHK that there were probably “five to ten invisible transmission channels” in the city.

“There is no time to waste,” said Leung. “We need cutout measures.”

Two other advisers, Yuen Kwok-yung and Ivan Hung, said officials should consider closing schools and reducing restaurant opening hours, local media reported.

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Reporting by Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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