Ban people from leaving Covid-hit block: experts

Medical experts on Friday said residents of a Kwai Chung housing block at the centre of a Covid-19 outbreak should be banned from leaving their homes for three days to prevent the virus from spreading.

Professor David Hui of the Chinese University said the government should provide more than 2,000 residents of Yat Kwai House in Kwai Chung Estate with food and daily necessities so they can stay home as authorities carry out mass testing in a bid to track down other Covid cases in the building.

Fifteen residents and a security guard at the block have recently tested positive for Covid.

Overnight lockdowns and testing have already been ordered for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, and people won’t be able to go out until they have received a negative result.

Hui, who’s one of the government’s advisers on its coronavirus strategy, told a radio programme that this arrangement is not enough.

“Even if they test negative in the evening, they could turn positive the next day. They would bring risks to the community if they continue to go to work,” he said.

A respiratory medicine specialist Leung Chi-chiu echoed the call for people to be confined to their homes, saying health officials must act now to stop the infections from spreading.

“We need to close the area immediately as people who tested negative initially could turn positive very rapidly within hours. They can transmit the infection at their workplaces and other places they visit,” he said.

“We need to cordon it off for at least three days so most of those cases occurring after the initial spread of the disease will appear.”

Speaking on an RTHK programme, a DNA expert from Polytechnic University, Gilman Siu, agreed that it’s better to require all residents of the block in question to quarantine at home.

But he said testing them for Covid-19 every day is also an acceptable way to mitigate the risks.

He noted that three confirmed cases at the building – a 79-year-old man, a 53-year-old worker at the cargo terminal and a one-year-old girl – have been infected with the new Omicron sub-variant named BA.2.

Siu said genome sequencing showed the virus strain they have is almost identical to that found in a woman who was suspected to have been infected at a quarantine hotel in Yau Ma Tei.

The expert warned that widespread transmission of the sub-variant is taking place in the community, especially in the Kowloon West area.