The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said Thursday that certain measures will be strengthened to contain the worsening COVID-19 epidemic as soon as possible.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) on the same day reported 18 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases, taking the total tally to 5,161 in Hong Kong.
Among the newly reported cases, 14 were local infections and the other four had a travel history during the incubation period. Infection source of one local case was still unknown.
So far 10 cases have been reported in a bar and another 12 cases in a nursing home for the disabled, according to Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the CHP's Communicable Disease Branch.
"The number of new cases in Hong Kong is on the rise, which warns of another wave of epidemic," said Director of Health Constance Chan.
Chan pointed out that only eight local cases including three with unknown infection sources were seen from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, but the figures jumped to 35 cases with 12 of them having unknown infection sources from Oct. 2 to Oct. 8, demonstrating a worsening trend of the epidemic.
Real-time data from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have shown the reproduction rate of infected cases, known as the R value, has risen from about 0.4 or 0.5 to above 1, meaning one infected person is potentially passing the virus to another person.
Some of the confirmed cases from the last week had very high virus loads, indicating that the spread of the virus in the community is accelerating, Chan said, describing the situation as "worrying."
Yuen Kwok-yung, professor of the Department of Microbiology of HKU, said the virus survives for a longer time in cooler seasons such as autumn. The measures must be strengthened before a rebound in new cases, or the severity will be even greater.
In response, the HKSAR government said a series of measures will be stepped up to contain the epidemic, including investigation and tracking of confirmed cases, strengthening community-level testing and specific group testing, setting up temporary testing centers in areas with large clusters of infections, and urging the hotel industry to strictly implement infection control measures.
According to Hong Kong's Hospital Authority, 121 patients are still hospitalized, including 10 in critical condition. Enditem