Inside the Hong Kong University's School of Public Health, a virologist Professor Malik Peiris had conducted major research on the Coronavirus, and now, the university laboratory is at the center of a possible SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in Hong Kong.
As reported, 41 workers at the university were ordered to be quarantined by the Department of Health, after 14 out of 37 environmental tests came positive for the virus. While it was claimed that a researcher handling samples of Coronavirus became infected, and played the key role to spread the virus around the facility, the university firmly denied the connection.
The lead virologist at the facility Peiris had been out of Hong Kong recently, reported the South China Morning Post. A source told the news organization that Peiris was in Sri Lanka and because of that, he doesn't need to be quarantined. This news comes as Hong Kong is set to see its "third wave" of the Coronavirus with rising cases in the city.
The Hong Kong Lab and Coronavirus
According to reports, the laboratory was studying non-infectious samples of the Coronavirus. Peiris has led major research into the SARS-CoV-2 in the city since the outbreak began and confirmed the world's first infection case of a dog in March.
The virologist had received funding from the government to carry out serological studies. The focus of his research was to find out antibody responses of COVID-19 patients to help the vaccine development process.
As per the reports, the case of an initially infected researcher, who was handling paperwork and gene-sequencing about the strain of the novel Coronavirus, was classified by health authorities as untraced as she dealt with samples that were not contagious.
Six people—working at the facility which is situated on the sixth floor of the Laboratory Block on Sassoon Road in Pok Fu Lam—including the team members of the infected woman and her friends were initially placed in quarantine as they were identified as the close contacts of the woman.
The university's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine earlier said that there was no proof that the infection occurred during the lab work and the team members of the woman had been given the all-clear. However, health officials have distributed several specimen bottles to people working in the same building.
Hong Kong Coronavirus
On Sunday, September 20, Hong Kong recorded 23 new infections, the highest daily number in nearly a month. All but four of those were imported COVID-19 cases, prompting the government to suspend all Air India flights—which carried infected people and brought them to Hong Kong in August—and a regional Cathay Dragon route to Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur after several of their passengers tested positive. At present, the total number of confirmed cases in the city is more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases with 103 related deaths.
However, Professor David Hui Shu-Cheong, a respiratory expert from Chinese University said that the government may relax social distancing measures further to allow up to six people per table at a restaurant. Hui, who also advises the government on the pandemic said that the government will look into the situation, and if there are no new outbreaks linked to restaurants and eateries and if the local case numbers remain low, "further relaxation could be possible."