People cross a street in Hong Kong on May 8, 2022. (DALE DE LA REY / AFP)

HONG KONG – Health officials of Hong Kong registered 266 new COVID-19 infections and deaths of two elderly persons on Sunday, as four more patrons of a Chinese restaurant in the New Territories tested positive for the virus.

Total 190 patrons of Peony Golden Court restaurant have been asked to undergo compulsory testing by May 9 following the first confirmation of infection there on May 3, Dr Albert Au Ka-wing, principal medical and health officer of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said at a press briefing.

The new 266 cases – which brought Hong Kong's infection tally during the fifth wave of the epidemic to 1,193,954 – include 25 imported cases. The rest are local infections, said Dr Au. Total 154 of the newly detected infections were confirmed by rapid antigen tests and the rest through nucleic acid tests. 

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Of the imported cases, 18 were detected on their arrival at the Hong Kong International Airport. Six others were found to be infected during isolation at the quarantine hotels, added Dr Au. 

Six of them flew in from the United States and five from Singapore. The rest of them came from India, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Australia, Spain, South Africa, Germany and Japan.

Speaking at the same briefing, Dr Larry Lee Lap-yip, chief manager (Integrated Clinical Services) of the Hospital Authority, reported death of two more people.

If you discover yourself positive, avoid public areas and stop the spread of transmission.

Dr Albert Au, Communicable Disease Branch, CHP

One of the dead patients aged 85 years had two jabs while the other, a 70-old man, did not have any vaccination record, said the officials.

Talking on the Yuen Long eatery transmission, Dr Au said they suspect the cluster had been caused by a short-distance airborne infection.

Environmental samples collected from the restaurant returned negative, he said.

The latest infected patrons – aged between 56 and 67 – had breakfast at the restaurant last Sunday, around the same time as the four previous cases.

Eight infected persons there – most of who showed mild symptoms – belong to five different groups, with two each from three groups testing positive. Seven of them have three shots of COVID-19 vaccines while the other patient has two doses, he said

Twenty-one of the patrons who were asked to undergo testing had already done so and all tested negative, he added. “We issued SMS and reminded them to comply with the (testing) notice … If they don't report, we will try to locate them by phone.” 

Replying to a query on the risk of rebound of cases due to the Mother’s Day celebration, he said the fact that people are dining out will lead to a higher risk of infection. “But restaurants are complying with regulations, meeting requirements and minimizing the risk of an outbreak.”

He advised people not to venture out if they have symptoms. “If you discover yourself positive, avoid public areas and stop the spread of transmission,” he added.

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"As the number of new infections drops, we hope to strengthen contact tracing work and enhance infection control at places where coronavirus outbreaks were reported in order to cut off virus transmission chains in the community," said Au.

The health authorities meanwhile conducted a compulsory testing exercise for the restricted area covering Tak On House of Hau Tak Estate in Tseung Kwan O on Sunday, but no positive COVID-19 cases were found in the exercise.

The government made a restriction-testing declaration Saturday to cover the building where 1,281 people were tested. The Centre for Health Protection will follow up on one indeterminate case detected during the operation.