Authorities in Hong Kong, a city lauded for its quick and effective coronavirus response, are now warning of potential "exponential growth" in new Covid-19 cases after a surge in local transmissions.
Since Sunday, 65 patients have been diagnosed -- including 31 locally transmitted cases in what has been dubbed a "third wave" of the pandemic in the global financial center.
Taxi drivers, restaurant workers, a medical clinic employee and a retirement home resident -- some of the people most vulnerable to the virus and likely to spread it -- have been diagnosed.
"It is possible there could be a major outbreak," Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection (CHP) Communicable Disease Branch said Wednesday. "There could be a sudden exponential growth of cases."
Hong Kong has recorded only 1,324 coronavirus cases and seven virus-related fatalities since the pandemic began.
The city's success in containing Covid-19 has been attributed to the government's vigilant enforcement of quarantine for overseas arrivals, efficient contact tracing and residents' willingness to practice good hygiene, wear masks and practice social distancing.
While the new caseload and total number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 is very low compared to the United States and Brazil, experts say the latest rise shows the virus still poses a threat despite even the most stringent anti-epidemic controls.
"This virus will find every chink in your armor," said Dr. Sarah Borwein, a Hong Kong-based physician experienced in infectious diseases and epidemiology. "We've seen that in Beijing, in Singapore, in South Korea and now in Israel, Australia and elsewhere."