Hong Kong is aiming for a “dynamic zero infection” situation, which, according to state-backed media outlet Xinhua news agency, does not mean trying to get to zero cases. Instead, it aims to identify new infections as early as possible so that the virus can be contained.
This approach has led to criticism, with some saying it jeopardizes the city’s international financial status.
But despite the strategy, the city is now seeing its fifth wave and recording more cases than ever since the pandemic started over two years ago.
With that, Hong Kong has imposed its most stringent COVID-19 social distancing policies to date, with a vaccine pass being introduced on February 24 only allowing those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine into certain areas.
Health experts from the University of Hong Kong have also warned this week that the city could see 28,000 new cases a day by the end of March, with deaths rising to 1,000 by June. The experts added that it could only return to a “zero-covid” state if the entire city were locked down for around two to three months.
The help requested ranged from building out more isolation facilities, helping with the fresh food shortage and test kits, to which Beijing agreed.
The fresh food shortage comes after several delivery truck drivers between the Hong Kong and China border tested positive. Some markets across the city had to increase their prices to compensate for the short supply.
Authorities also said that children from the age of 3 would be eligible for vaccinations, which follows the death of a 4-year-old girl who tested preliminarily positive for COVID-19 last week.
The city saw 2,071 cases and 4,500 preliminary infections.
Hospitals are also at 90% occupancy, according to Sarah Ho, the Hospital Authority Chief Manager. Testing facilities are nearing full capacity, creating a delay in confirming cases. The location and exact design of a makeshift hospital, modeled after the one used in Wuhan two years ago, will soon be decided.
There have been at least four more deaths, including two elderly men. A 3-year-old patient is also currently in hospital in critical condition.
Authorities have so far steered clear of imposing a citywide lockdown. Resources will be directed toward children and the elderly.
“The onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong and overwhelmed the city’s capacity of handling," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, adding that patients were having to wait longer to access isolation facilities.
“The situation is highly undesirable and the government feels worried and sorry about it."
On Monday, the government also announced all schools will suspend face-to-face classes until March 6.
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