Despite its very strict “zero Covid” policy, Hong Kong finds itself overwhelmed by the Omicron variant, so much so that the head of government Carrie Lam has claimed that the city’s health system is “overwhelmed”.
The saturation of hospitals results in particular from Hong Kong’s very strict health policy: anyone positive for Covid, symptomatic or not, must be hospitalized or isolated in a quarantine center. With the exponential increase in the number of contaminations for a month, the authorities are struggling to manage the influx of patients.
Hong Kong recorded around ten cases of contamination per day in early January, against more than 300 in early February. The appearance of Omicron on the territory at the end of December led to more than 8,300 new cases in just a few weeks, a considerable jump from the approximately 12,000 cases detected in almost two years.
Older people who are poorly vaccinated
“The considerable increase in the number of confirmed cases in recent days has lengthened the time it takes for people who test positive to be admitted to isolation centres,” Carrie Lam said on Sunday. Queues for testing centers have lengthened considerably.
Last week, the city recorded its first deaths in five months. While the overall vaccination rate in Hong Kong has exceeded 80%, around 50% of the population over the age of 70 is unvaccinated. “It has been difficult to get the elderly vaccinated,” Lau Chak Sing, head of the department of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, told CNBC. He attributes the blame in part to “lack of sense of urgency because Hong Kong was doing very well.”
Hong Kong will therefore have to work extra hard to vaccinate and protect its population, the forecasts of scientists not being optimistic. Researchers warned last week that by the end of March the city could have up to 28,000 daily infections, while since the start of the pandemic Hong Kong has recorded a cumulative total of just 16,719 infections and 219 deaths. .
To cope with this epidemic wave, the head of government also announced on Sunday that Hong Kong would receive aid from mainland China for the screening, treatment and quarantine of patients with Covid-19.