Discovery of Delta variant in Tai Po a ‘red alert’

Hong Kong is expected to find out on Friday whether it has recorded its first community infection of the contagious Delta strain of Covid-19, when laboratory results from a man at the centre of a Covid scare in Tai Po come out.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) on Thursday confirmed that a 27-year-old airport worker has been infected with Covid-19, and that a specific mutation that is present in a number of variants – including delta – was found in samples taken from the patient.

An overnight lockdown of his housing block in Tai Po – Wan Hang House at Wan Tau Tong Estate – yielded no further positive cases even after authorities tested some 2,100 residents there.

The Dean of the University of Hong Kong’s faculty of medicine, Professor Gabriel Leung, said it was highly alarming that a routine test of sewage taken from Tai Po tested positive for the Delta strain – which was first discovered in India and is considered by experts to be more contagious than other variants.

Leung said the positive sample came out on Tuesday, sparking the lockdown and mandatory tests across a wide area of the district amid fears of a possible fifth wave of the epidemic here.

“That was the first sample that had a very large catchment area in Tai Po that had a very very high viral load of about 58,000 viral copies,” Leung said. “So that was a very, very… red alert for us.”

He said results from the 27-year-old scheduled to be ready on Friday will show whether he has the Delta strain of the disease.

Meanwhile, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the CHP told a media briefing it’s likely that the man caught the virus at the airport, where he has been working as a member of the ground staff, being as none of his relatives have tested positive so far.

The patient also works part-time as a customer service assistant in Tai Po’s Uptown Plaza.

Chuang said the man went to at least eight different places during the incubation period for the virus, including a Thai restaurant in Tung Chung.

He also went to the airport on Wednesday to take a farewell group photo with his colleagues as he had just resigned from his job there.

Hong Kong on Thursday also recorded six additional Covid cases linked to overseas travel, involving four students who arrived from the UK, and two women who flew in from Indonesia.

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Last updated: 2021-06-24 HKT 19:39