Hong Kong has reported 986 new coronavirus infections as authorities scramble to contain an outbreak that medical experts say could see 28,000 daily cases by the end of March, with unvaccinated older people of particular concern.
The 10-fold rise in cases since Feb. 1 is proving to be the biggest test for the global financial hub’s “dynamic zero” virus suppression policy, which has made it one of the world’s fastest growing cities. most isolated from the world.
After mainland China, Hong Kong is trying to curb outbreaks as soon as possible, unlike many other places trying to “live with COVID”, relying on high vaccination rates to provide protection while easing restrictions. limitations.
The fast-spreading Omicron variant tests both approaches, although experts have said Hong Kong’s strategy looks increasingly unsustainable as cases soar.
Leader Carrie Lam said she was ‘deeply sorry and anxious’ as residents, including the elderly and children, lined up for hours at testing centers and to enter isolation facilities after daily infections doubled to a record 1,161 cases on Wednesday.
Lam said the city was unable to try to live with the virus because more than 50% of the elderly have not been vaccinated.
About 82% of the city’s residents have received at least one vaccine, but many older people have been hesitant. Three elderly people have died this week from the coronavirus, authorities said on Thursday.
However, vaccination rates have finally started to rise in recent days, especially among the elderly, as infections increase and even stricter anti-virus measures such as vaccine passports are put in place.
Hong Kong has reported more than 4,000 infections in the past two weeks, up from just two in December, taking its tally to more than 18,000 since the outbreak began in 2020, with 216 deaths, figures far below those seen in other major cities. around the world.
The city could see 28,000 new cases a day by the end of March, with the death toll reaching 1,000 in June, health experts from the University of Hong Kong said this week.
Experts modeled scenarios which they said indicated that Hong Kong could only return to a “zero-covid” state if the entire city was locked down for two to three months.
The government declined to comment directly on speculation of a lockdown, reiterating that people must take all measures to contain the virus and limit social activities.
They responded to the latest surge with the toughest suppression measures yet, despite a growing social and economic toll for the city’s 7.5 million residents.
Public gatherings of more than two people are banned from Thursday while gatherings in homes have also been restricted. The rules come on top of already strict measures that have forced restaurants to close from 6 p.m. and shut most churches to schools, gyms and cinemas.
About 200,000 people in the residential area of Discovery Bay, where many foreigners live, have been ordered to get tested after the government said it detected coronavirus in sewage.
Ching Tang, a 50-year-old resident waiting to be vaccinated, said the pandemic has greatly affected many aspects of life.
“Some elderly people don’t even dare to go out. They store food for several days. Everyone is worried… I hope the government can do better.”
Australian Associated Press