Hong Kong health authorities have locked down an entire public housing estate in Kennedy Town after recording a “very high” Covid-19 viral load in sewage samples, indicating a new cluster of cases.
The announcement followed an unusual warning from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) ‘s medical faculty, warning its students and staff to refrain from dining in the area.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Center for Health Protection’s Communicable Disease Branch, said they had found “very high viral loads” in the sewage samples from Sai Wan Estate, especially at its West Terrace.
Chuang said a total of five Covid-19 infections had been reported from the West Terrace, three of them on Thursday. The cases were from four households on different floors of the building.
“These cases may explain some of the findings in this sewage finding,” she said, adding that “of course there may be other cases in that district.”
The lockdown covers all five blocks of the estate and is expected to be lifted on Friday morning after compulsory testing. The government is also distributing rapid test kits to nearby residents and certain workers.
Earlier in the morning, the medical faculty of HKU issued a statement warning that there was “potentially a large Covid-19 cluster developing in and around Kennedy Town.”
The faculty wrote that it “strongly advise[s]”Its students and employees not to go for lunch or any“ mask-off activities ”in the concerned area for the rest of the week.
When Chuang was asked whether such a district-wide warning would cause panic among the public, she said officials “respect the action of individual universities.” She said health authorities have not yet spotted any outbreaks among eateries in the district.
Chuang urged people in the neighborhood to undergo Covid-19 testing if they demonstrated related symptoms. “If more people are tested, we may be able to find more [cases.]”
As of Wednesday, Hong Kong had reported a total of 1,207,371 Covid-19 infections and 9,355 related deaths.
The vast majority of cases and fatalities resulted from an Omicron outbreak earlier this year which is now abating.