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  1. The government on Wednesday evening put a residential block in Tung Chung under overnight lockdown in light of Covid-19 infections linked to the building. La Rossa A (Block 7) of Coastal Skyline Phase 3 was cordoned off at 8pm and residents are required to undergo testing before 1am. “As some cases tested positive who have lived in the building were detected recently, and the test results involved mutant strain, the risk of infection in the relevant area is assessed to be likely higher, so the Government decided to make a 'restriction-testing declaration' for the relevant area," a government spokesman said. Officials said they aimed to lift the lockdown at about 7am on Thursday. The Centre for Health Protection earlier said a few Covid-19 patients had visited an outdoor area at the Coastal Skyline housing estate where around 30 people regularly played football and spent time.
  2. The head of Beijing’s liaison office, Luo Huining, said on Wednesday that leaders of Hong Kong cannot be complacent or dodge responsibility if they want to achieve good governance. In a Lunar New Year speech, Luo said Hong Kong has entered a new chapter of One Country, Two Systems in the past year, with the city acquiring “a brand new look” after the implementation of the national security law and electoral reforms. "Hong Kong, despite having more favourable conditions and opportunities than ever before, would still need to take the historical initiative to build on the momentum and pursue steady progress," Luo said. "Acts of complacency or dodging responsibility will only stifle the spirit to fight and the courage to reform," he added. The mainland official also expressed confidence in One Country, Two Systems and the future of the SAR, noting that many of Hong Kong’s unique advantages and competitiveness remain intact. "Hong Kong has a promising future and the key lies in Hong Kong acquiring the historical consciousness to resolutely integrate into the overall development of the country," he said. “As long as Hong Kong excels in leveraging its strengths to serve the country’s needs, it is sure to assume greater responsibilities amid the major changes unseen in a century."
  3. Health officials say there’s a downward trend in the number of newly infected households at the Kwai Chung Estate block where an Omicron cluster started, as they express hope that the peak of the outbreak might be over. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) on Wednesday reported 58 new cases linked to the public housing estate, as the tally of confirmed or suspected infections in the cluster rose to 334. Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the CHP said while 45 of the new patients are from Yat Kwai House – where most cases were from – they come from just six flats. Chuang said she hopes the spread of the virus in the block has peaked, but added authorities still need to observe the situation for a few more days. "We observe that the number of units has gone down to single digits, so this shows a decreasing trend today, but we still need to observe for a few more days for Yat Kwai [House]," “For the other buildings, we still need to observe, especially for Ying Kwai [House],”she said. Ying Kwai House, which was placed under several days of lockdown like Yat Kwai House, recorded eight new infections, from two previously uninfected families. Officials were asked to respond to residents’ concerns over possible cross-infections when they go downstairs for regular testing. “Before we start the testing, every day we have to confirm the address of the tenants who are confirmed positive or preliminary positive cases. And then we have to inform them not to go down to carry out the test,” explained Ian Luk, the Assistant Director of Housing (Estate Management). “After we’ve informed these tenants, we will start to do the testing, so the testing time will be different on different days. We will orderly inform the tenants to go downstairs to carry out the tests.” Separately, the government announced the extension of the lockdown of Ying Kwai House by two more days until Saturday morning. The five-day lockdown of Yat Kwai House was extended earlier. In total, Hong Kong reported 107 new Covid infections for the day, 100 of which are local infections. It’s the fourth day running that Hong Kong has seen a daily caseload of over 100. Among the local infections, officials are not able to trace the source of seven cases. One of them is an elderly woman who lives in a Fu Keung House flat of Tai Wo Hau Estate but is thought to be unrelated to a suspected vertical transmission in the block. Another case involves a man who lives on Victory Avenue in a building next to a construction site that has seen a recent Covid outbreak. Also untraceable for now are two airport workers: a washroom cleaner who lives in Tsing Yi and a security guard at Cathay City who lives in Tai Wo Hau Estate. Meanwhile, officials are sending more residents of a Wong Tai Sin block into quarantine, after one more resident got infected. There are around 130 preliminary positive cases. ______________________________ Last updated: 2022-01-26 HKT 20:37
  4. Preliminary findings from an investigation into alleged abuse at a foster home in Prince Edward suggested that management must have been aware of the problem but did little to stop it. The director of the Society for the Protection of Children and superintendent of the Children's Residential Home run by the society have now resigned, and the report further recommends that all child care staff at the home should be gradually replaced. The Independent Review Committee said staff had routinely subjected children under their care to rough physical treatment. It looked at security camera footage and found at least 10 incidents which it said amounted to abuse. These included kids being slapped or kicked around, shaken, thrown against a padded wall, and having their ears pulled. One child was seen to have been lifted by the collar before being dumped onto a mat. Another was thrown into an activity area, knocking over other kids. The report said these were not isolated incidents, and the way staff treated the kids was "generally rough, lacking in care and without regard for the feelings, respect or dignity of the children". The chairman of the review committee, Lester Huang, said staff "generally had very rough conduct to bring the children under control as an imminent purpose.” “Of course children need to be kept out of harm, therefore, some actions are necessary. But the staff habitually were using some very expedient ways without looking into the feelings or how the children would take their conduct." The report also found that children were treated so roughly that there's little doubt that they would have felt “discomfort, unease or even pain.” “Even though there was no apparent physical injury, the emotional impact on the child may be lasting," it added. The committee also concluded that management must have been aware of how the children were treated, but considered this acceptable as there had been no intervention besides "mild reminders". It also said there was lax supervision of day-to-day work at the foster home, and no staff had reported any problems to management because the peer-monitoring system had "totally collapsed." Huang said the recommendation to replace staff in phases was made in the children's interest. "The reason we are suggesting in stages is because... putting the children in the hands of total strangers will be in itself not in the children's best interest," he said. But with the arrest and resignation of workers, Robin Hammond, who chairs the society's executive committee, said easing the workload of existing staff has been difficult, especially after its volunteer programme ended in recent years. "We had approximately 120 volunteers on our roster. So these are an extra pair of hands and independent observers within the room in the Children's Residential Home. And in retrospect, if we can go back and keep that running, I think that's one of the things we did that I regret the most, was stopping the volunteer programme," Hammond said. "Obviously now with Covid coming up again, it's probably not something we can do today." Police are continuing their investigation into the case. Twenty people have been arrested so far, and the number of alleged victims stood at 35. ______________________________ Last updated: 2022-01-26 HKT 18:35
  5. Former lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting was on Wednesday jailed for four months for revealing that a senior police officer was being probed by the ICAC over the force’s handling of the 2019 Yuen Long attacks. The Eastern Magistrate's Court heard that Lam had exposed an investigation into Yau Nai-keung, the then-assistant commander of the district, who led an operation after armed, white-clad men beat up passengers and passersby in and around the Yuen Long MTR Station on July 21, 2019. Magistrate Jacky Ip ruled that the disclosure could have affected the graftbuster’s work. Ip also agreed with the prosecution that there was no need for Lam to reveal the probe, as the former lawmaker had already held three press conferences to express his dissatisfaction towards the police in relation to the Yuen Long attacks. Lam was found guilty of three counts of disclosing the identity of persons being investigated. The ex-lawmaker, who is in remand for a separate national security case, has filed an appeal.
  6. Security Secretary Chris Tang on Wednesday said the Official Secrets Ordinance will be amended to better tackle espionage in Hong Kong. Speaking at a Legislative Council meeting, he said certain countries have been attempting to engage in activities to endanger national security in the territory, with the social unrest in 2019 being a "vivid example." The security minister told lawmakers that the administration currently relies on the national security law and the Official Secrets Ordinance to tackle espionage, adding that the latter is too limited in scope and needs to be revised. "In the existing Official Secrets Ordinance, the definition of espionage work is rather limited. It covers the approach of prohibited places and the making of information useful to the enemy," Tang said. "We feel that these definitions are not enough for us to combat all manners of espionage activities and risks arising from these." He said the legislation will be amended at the same time as officials draft more laws against acts that endanger national security under Article 23 of the Basic Law. Tang said officials plan to submit the proposals to Legco for scrutiny in the second half of the year.
  7. Researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University say they have found a substantial increase in the number of primary school pupils developing astigmatism after face-to-face classes were suspended for a considerable period of time last year. The research team compared the vision screening results of more than 100 children – aged between eight and 10 – obtained in October 2018 and June 2020. It found that the percentage of students suffering from astigmatism – a condition of the eye which results in distorted or blurred vision due to refractive errors – has jumped from 35 percent to 57 percent. The researchers also found that the pupils on average spent 30 minutes to one hour more on digital devices per day during their leisure time after the school suspension was first implemented in February 2020. Dr Jeffrey Leung from the university’s School of Optometry said traditionally, astigmatism is not very common among children, adding that the suspension of face-to-face classes has had a big impact on children’s eye health. “This study is the first study we found an increase in their astigmatism including the magnitude and also the proportion,” Leung said. “They need to use the mobile devices in order to attend the classes, as now they’ve switched to online classes. Secondly is probably because they have more time to stay at home, and they don’t have much to do, and therefore spending more time on YouTube and video games, using digital devices.” He said previous studies have shown that astigmatic children have a higher chance of developing myopia, or nearsightedness. The expert advised parents to make sure their children are exposed to sufficient sunlight, and are doing enough to prevent eyestrain. Leung also urged teachers to increase the size of letters and pictures in their online teaching materials, so that children would not have to strain their eyes when looking at their computer monitors.
  8. An infectious diseases specialist on Wednesday urged the government to be more pragmatic and slightly relax its Covid restrictions, saying Hong Kong will have to endure the current wave of Omicron infections for months. Dr Wilson Lam said the ban on evening dine-in services at restaurants had resulted in more people eating out for lunch, and crowds gathering during the day. He said people could be given some leeway regarding their activities, as the fight against the Covid outbreak is expected to be a long one. "[During the] Chinese New Year, people will not really totally stay at their homes. It might be more prudent to adopt a more pragmatic approach to allow a little bit of loosening of restrictions in the coming period of time," he said. "We have to fight this Omicron wave for an extended period of time. We might have to be more pragmatic." Meanwhile, residents of Yat Kwai House in Kwai Chung said they are frustrated that a lockdown of their housing block had been extended. The government announced on Tuesday that the original five-day lockdown of the building – which is at the centre of an Omicron outbreak – would be extended for another two days until Friday. A resident surnamed Chung called into an RTHK programme, saying he had lost his job because of the lockdown. "I hope the lockdown won't be extended again. I'm suffering as I've lost my freedom. My employer already told me not to go back to work even when the lockdown is lifted. He said tactfully that he will consider the situation again after the Chinese New Year. In effect, I've been fired," he said. Another resident surnamed Chan said she had tested negative for Covid-19 six times. "I almost had a meltdown when I knew the lockdown would be extended. There could be cross-infections among the residents if we continue to be trapped in one place," she said.
  9. Health authorities say they found two preliminary positive cases after an overnight lockdown at numbers 21 to 35 Hung Kwong Street in To Kwa Wan, where they tested about 190 people. No new Covid-19 cases were found during an overnight lockdown at Wai Chun House on Un Chau Street in Sham Shui Po. About 40 people were tested in the Sham Shui Po operation. People with proof that they had been tested were allowed to leave their buildings from 7 and 8 am on Wednesday morning.
  10. The Social Welfare Department on Tuesday said it'd received a report from the Society for the Protection of Children over alleged child abuse cases at a foster home it runs. The department said it's studying the report which includes a review of the situation and proposals for improvement. The department did not rule out taking regulatory action, or striking off child care workers deemed unsuitable for the job. Officials also said they have been conducting surprise checks at the Children's Residential Home daily, and a team of nurses and social workers has been sent in to monitor the operation of the foster home. Twenty staff from the facility operated by the society in Prince Edward have been arrested on suspicion of ill-treatment or neglect of children, with the number of alleged victims standing at 35.

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