Family gets virus after sharing dinner
A family of nine who shared a meal at a Hong Kong restaurant have all tested positive for the coronavirus.
The family makes up almost all of the 10 positive cases reported across the territory yesterday after seven of them were confirmed late yesterday evening, the South China Morning Post reported. Their ages range from 22 to 68.
A 24-year-old man and his grandmother, 91, were initially confirmed to have the virus. Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection later said the man's father, mother, two aunts and three cousins were also infected.
The total number of cases in Hong Kong has now hit 36, heightening fears of a community outbreak in the densely populated city.
The new cases had been to a family gathering on January 19 at the Lento Party Room in Kwun Tong, where they shared a hotpot and a barbecue meal over the Lunar New Year holiday. Nineteen people joined the dinner, including two relatives from mainland China.
The two relatives sought medical attention across the border. One tested negative for the virus, while the other is still waiting for results.
It came as medical officials confirmed that the virus was airborne.
Over the weekend, an official in Shanghai confirmed the virus also travelled through aerosol transmission, which means it can float a long distance through the air and cause infection later when it is breathed in.
"Aerosol transmission refers to the mixing of the virus with droplets in the air to form aerosols, which causes infection after inhalation, according to medical experts," Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau deputy head Zeng Qun said at press briefing on Saturday, the China Daily reports.
"As such, we have called on the public to raise their awareness of the prevention and control of the disease caused by family gatherings."
The concerns about airborne spread of the disease are so dire that the Government has urged residents to cancel all social activities and avoid gatherings altogether.
People are also urged to open windows in homes to help with ventilation and disinfect door handles, dinner tables and toilet seats.
This worrying development comes as the death toll from the virus in mainland China hits 811, making it more deadly than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
A further 89 people, most in the virus's epicentre of Hubei, have been pronounced dead from the outbreak, which pushes the death toll beyond the 774 killed worldwide by SARS, which took hold in 2002 and 2003.
The number of people infected in China is now almost 37,200, although the World Health Organisation says the outbreak appears to be "stabilising".
Outside mainland China and Hong Kong, there have been more than 350 infections reported in nearly 30 places.
Australia has so far had 15 confirmed coronavirus cases: five in Queensland, four each in NSW and Victoria and two in South Australia.
Millions of people are still under lockdown in Hubei, the epicentre of the virus, in a bid to stop the virus spreading.
VIRUS EVACUEES LAND 'WELL' IN DARWIN
More than 200 passengers aboard the second Qantas evacuation flight from the coronavirus epicentre in China landed in Darwin yesterday.
The Australian Border Force said the 266 evacuees included 77 children, 11 infants and one "less-than-able" 90-year-old man.
They were screened for signs of the virus twice while in the air and once at the airport in Darwin. All were "well" and healthy, the force said.
They had left the coronavirus epicentre Wuhan early on Sunday morning and were bussed to the disused Manigurr-Ma work camp 30km from Darwin.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said if anyone becomes unwell they will be taken immediately to quarantine in Darwin.
"They will go to the Darwin Hospital where they will be tested, and if they are negative, that is good, and if they are positive, they will be properly treated there," Prof Murphy told reporters.
Evacuees were initially expected to be quarantined on Christmas Island before a decision was made on Friday to bring them to the former Inpex workers' accommodation.
Prof Murphy confirmed that a young Australian girl on Christmas Island had tested negative for the virus after developing an illness.
Australian citizens or permanent residents from mainland China face a mandatory two-week quarantine process of self-isolation.
Prof Murphy said there were no current plans for any further "assisted departure" flights.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs is in contact with people on the ground in Wuhan, and we have certainly brought off the people at greatest risk," he said. Meanwhile, more than 200 Australians remain trapped overseas aboard three cruise ships affected by the virus.
The Diamond Princess remains quarantined at Yokohama in Japan with 3700 people on-board, including 219 Australians who are well and another seven Australians among the 64 passengers that have tested positive.
The World Dream in Hong Kong with coronavirus on-board has 16 Australians, none of whom are ill.
Another ship, the Westerdam, has been stranded at sea after the Japanese, Philippines and South Korean governments refused it permission to dock despite no reported cases of the virus on-board.
Westerdam passenger David Holst, from Adelaide, posted on Facebook on Sunday that Guam had also rejected the ship.
"We think we are safe on-board in virtual quarantine but Holland America have a history of not telling us everything so we have nagging doubts," he wrote. "We are 8 days out of Hong Kong and I don't imagine any country will let us off until we are 14-15 days virus free."
- with AAP