Hong Kong reports 19 local coronavirus cases as resurgence fears grow

The total number of cases in Hong Kong since late January now stands at 1,324.
The total number of cases in Hong Kong since late January now stands at 1,324.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong reported a second day of rising local coronavirus infections, disrupting a long virus-free stretch that had allowed life in the Asian financial hub to largely return to normal.

The city found 19 new infections in the community with six of unknown origin, government officials said in a press briefing on Wednesday (July 8) – the most since April 1.

This follows the disclosure of nine new local cases on Tuesday, five of unknown origin.

The number of new local infections that can’t be traced suggest that hidden chains of transmission have been circulating in the city for some time as social distancing measures were eased and people returned to work and social activity.

Hong Kong had successfully quelled two waves of infection in February and April and its total outbreak numbers only 1,323.

The virus is roaring back across the region in a sobering reminder that the pandemic is far from over, even in places with the best containment track records.

Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, re-entered virus lockdown this week as cases surged in Victoria state, while Japan continues to find about a hundred new infections daily in its capital of Tokyo.

In Beijing, schools remain closed to halt a new outbreak.

The resurgence of cases in Hong Kong, termed "the third wave" by officials, comes two weeks after the government’s latest easing of social-distancing restrictions.

Several cases were linked to renewed traffic to restaurants, as people remove their masks to eat and drink, said health officials.

At least 13 educational institutions have suspended classes and visits to elderly care centers are being limited after cases were found in these places.

"We are worried that there may be a major community outbreak because of so many unknown sources," said Ms Chuang Shuk-kwan, an official with the Department of Health at a Wednesday briefing, urging a re-tightening of social distancing measures.

"Tracing will be difficult. We are very worried. Seeing the experience from overseas, this kind of situation can turn into a very serious outbreak," she said.