The cluster linked to the public hospital in Kwun Tong yesterday recorded seven more cases, taking its tally to 12 patients and seven staff.

All of them were linked to palliative care ward 2D, where a super spreader - believed to be an 84-year-old woman suffering from diabetes - had been treated.
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Hospital Authority's chief executive Tony Ko Pat-sing said it will temporarily stop arranging newly confirmed cases to receive treatment at United, adding the hospital will reduce nonemergency and appointment-based services.

Ko said the hospital's isolation ward is already occupied due to the internal outbreak, leaving few places for outsiders.

As all United staff are being tested for the virus, Ko said the authority is mulling over regular testing for all frontline medical workers at all public hospitals.

The government has ordered compulsory testing for anyone who has been to the hospital's ward 2D and intensive care unit between December 15 and 27. A temporary testing center nearby started operation yesterday.

Infectious disease expert Yuen Kwok-yuen has attributed the outbreak to patients being moved across wards and a nurse's failure to wear goggles when feeding the super spreader and washing her mouth.

The authority's chief infection control officer, Raymond Lai Wai-man, urged staff to avoid the unnecessary moving of beds.

"The principle is to reduce such practice," he said. "But sometimes it's needed if a patient's condition gets worse and his bed needs to be moved closer to the nurse station for better observation."

Public hospitals will beef up testing for patients showing coronavirus-related symptoms. They will be tested upon admission and get at least one more test within the following two days to reduce false negative results.

Visitors need to undergo testing before entering hospitals if time permits, as most visits have been banned except on compassionate grounds.

Ko urged medical workers to wear full protective gear when performing high-risk duties such as feeding patients, even if they have not been confirmed with the virus.

"As there are some invisible patients, we remind colleagues to be extra careful and take one step further," he said.

The Centre for Health Protection's head of communicable disease branch, Chuang Shuk-kwan, said the United cluster saw its first death - a 74-year-old woman passed away at 1.19am yesterday. She had a preexisting terminal illness and was admitted on December 16 due to shortness of breath.

Another 71-year-old woman from the cluster is in critical condition. The remaining 17 are stable.

The authority's chief manager for patient safety and risk management, Sara Ho Yuen-ha, said nine sets of environmental samples have been taken from ward 2D on different dates and a sample on one of the cubicle's water taps tested positive.

"It indicated that apart from the suspected super spreader, sharing of common equipment could also be a transmission path within the ward," she said.