Hong Kong investigating Covid-19 traces in Kennedy Town sewage

Hong Kong has been reporting about 200 to 300 daily infections. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong officials are investigating the Kennedy Town neighbourhood after sewage testing showed a potentially large Covid-19 cluster forming among residents there, people familiar with the matter said.

The findings are at an initial stage and there is no detail on how big the cluster is or could grow to, said the people, who declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak publicly.

Levels of the virus detected in the sewage are high, said one of the people, adding that further details are not yet available.

Residents became aware of a possible threat in the area after social media postings by The University of Hong Kong's medical school that warned students and staff to avoid the neighbourhood.

Besides being near the city's best-known tertiary institution, Kennedy Town is a popular expatriate residential area dense with restaurants and bars.

Hong Kong is coming out of an Omicron-driven wave that has shrouded the city since early 2022, with many residents on edge as the recent easing of restrictions could lead to a rebound in case counts.

The city has been reporting about 200 to 300 daily infections, down from a peak of more than 70,000 cases in March.

The notice, posted to Twitter and Facebook on Thursday (May 12) morning, said the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine became aware of "potentially a large Covid-19 cluster developing" in Kennedy Town, which neighbours the university.

It went on to ask students and staff to refrain from visiting the vicinity for lunch or engaging in any mask-off activities for the rest of the week.

Sewage testing involves checking wastewater for signs of infection, often using material collected from multiple buildings to detect even low levels of the pathogen.

The laboratory tests run on the sewage can help determine if the virus is present and at what levels.

The medical faculty declined to provide more details and said to contact the health authority for more information.

City health officials have not issued any information on a potential new outbreak in the area.

The Centre for Health Protection is looking into the statement, a spokesperson said.

The health authorities stopped publishing details of new cases in February after transmission became rampant in the city.

As the outbreak abated, information on a restaurant cluster in the northern district of Yuen Long was released last week.

It has since grown to about 20 infections.

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