HK probably has an Omicron outbreak: experts

Medical experts say Hong Kong has likely been hit by an Omicron outbreak, with one warning the territory must now brace itself for a “super-spreading” event.

A construction worker has tested preliminary positive for coronavirus, days after he ate at a restaurant in Kowloon Tong’s Festival Walk around the same time as an aircrew member carrying the highly contagious variant.

Speaking on morning radio shows on Friday, government pandemic expert David Hui and respiratory medicine expert Leung Chi-chiu both said it is highly likely that the construction worker’s infection occurred at the restaurant.

Hui said according to his understanding, the man was sitting a few tables away from the aircrew worker, on the afternoon of December 27.

“There is surely a local transmission in the Moon Palace [restaurant]… We have to see if there are other diners who got infected,” he said.

Leung also said he believed there had likely been an Omicron outbreak at the restaurant, warning that more people could come down with the virus.

“For this episode we have quite a lot of number of people exposed to a potential dangerous mode of super-spreading event airborne transmission. And the other imported cases, some of them have been going to bars and they may also have taken public transport. All these are likely to generate a super-spreading event,” he said.

“If we have two super-spreading events affecting quite a number of persons at the same time, then the fifth wave will surely come,” he added.

Asked if New Year celebrations, such as the Tourism Board’s New Year’s Eve countdown concert, should be cancelled in light of the Omicron fears, Leung said people should at least be cautious.

“Up to this stage, we are still having a proven outbreak in a single setting. It could be difficult to persuade our public to stop all the New Year celebration activities,” he said.

“The one thing we need to do is take care. We try to avoid situations that involve a lot of mixing of people, especially with strangers. If we can restrict our contact with a few families we are acquainted with during the celebrations, that will minimise our chance of exposure. Even if we go to any of these major celebration events, try to avoid moving around in the venue.”

Hui, meanwhile, urged people to avoid gatherings, wear their masks properly and maintain hand hygiene on New Year’s Eve.