Covid-19 outbreak at Hong Kong gym sends shivers through expat community

A pedestrian walks past the closed Ursus Fitness centre in Hong Kong on March 12, 2021. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong recorded 60 coronavirus cases on Friday (March 12), the city's government said, as it scrambled to contain transmissions mainly among its expatriate community after a cluster at a gym spilled into the financial sector and international schools.

Hong Kong's health department told a briefing that around 47 cases were related to the outbreak at Ursus Fitness, a gym in the city's trendy Sai Ying Pun district, which is popular with expatriate lawyers, bankers and hedge fund executives.

Over 240 people were sent to government quarantine due to the gym cluster, the authorities said on Thursday. Many of the clients did not wear masks during their workout, they said.

A whole class of primary school students aged around nine years old at Kellett school, a prestigious British school, were also sent to quarantine after confirmed cases were found.

One parent will be allowed to accompany them for the 14-day period, the school said.

At least nine schools have temporarily closed as a precautionary measure, schools and teachers said on Thursday.

Schools had in recent weeks begun to resume face-to-face teaching after conducting only online classes since November last year.

Prior to the gym outbreak, daily cases in Hong Kong had fallen to low double-digit and single-digit levels.

"I don't want to say this is the beginning of the fifth wave," Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, from the city's health department, told a press briefing. She added that she hoped the outbreak could be controlled soon.

Gymgoers are now required to wear masks during their workouts while fitness centre staff must get a Covid-19 test every 14 days, the government said on Friday.

Hong Kong has recorded around 11,000 total coronavirus cases, far fewer than other developed cities. The city of 7.5 million people launched its vaccination programme in February but only 145,800 people have received their first shot so far.

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