New COVID-19 strain found in 2 returnees from UK

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Fears of a more infectious coronavirus strain in Hong Kong abound after two returnees from the United Kingdom were found to have a genetic make-up similar to the one spreading rapidly in England.

Health authorities on Wednesday said two returnees were found to have a coronavirus strain similar to the one spreading across England, as the city logged 53 new COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection said they found the 2 cases after they analyzed the genetic make-up of 11 samples of previously confirmed cases from Britain.

The two returnees were students. One aged 14 is still in the hospital, while the other aged 17 has been discharged after recovering.

Chuang said the two new cases will be quarantined for seven more days as a precautionary measure. The three other friends of the 14-year-old will be sent to quarantine.

“According to the UK reports, they may be more infectious and… a small proportion of COVID in general may have a very long incubation period—more than 14 days,” she said.

Returnees from the UK have recently been ordered to stay for an additional week of quarantine, as health experts say the virus strain from England is easily communicable.

The six imported cases today include a UK returnee, four returnees from India, and an aircrew member who came from Belgium.

Twenty (20) of the 47 local COVID-19 cases had unknown sources of infection, and over 40 tested preliminarily positive for the virus.

A mandatory testing order will be issued to residents of Ping Shing House in Ping TIn Estate in Lam Tin after preliminary positive cases across five flats were confirmed today.

Police are searching for another escapee from the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre—a female who was supposed to be under quarantine for two more days. She had tested negative, but her relative had tested positive.

Hong Kong has recorded 8,353 COVID-19 infections to date.