Hong Kong Covid-19 cases cross 1 million; 97% reported from fifth wave

Mar 19, 2022 09:55 AM IST

Covid in Hong Kong: Hong Kong has had more Covid deaths - 5,401 - than those officially reported by mainland China - 4,636

Hong Kong has reported over one million Covid-19 cases, the Associated Press reported Friday, after city health officials detected 20,079 new cases in the preceding 24 hours. Nearly 97 per cent of these one million cases were reported in the current wave of infections - which is Hong Kong's fifth.

Residents visit a temporary Covid-19 testing station in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)
Residents visit a temporary Covid-19 testing station in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

City health officials also reported 265 Covid-related deaths. Hong Kong has had more virus-related deaths - 5,401 - than those reported by mainland China - 4,636. As with its caseload, 96 per cent have come since February 9.

A city of 7.4 million, Hong Kong is gripped by a deadly wave driven by omicron.

The healthcare system is at breaking point as hospitals reach maximum capacity and, in scenes reminiscent of those from India last year, mortuaries are so full bodies have to be temporarily stored in refrigerated containers.

Most of the deceased were elderly patients and most were not fully vaccinated.

In fact, Hong Kong has registered the most deaths per million people globally in recent weeks - over 24 times higher than Singapore - because the majority of its elderly citizens remain either partially or fully unvaccinated. 

READ: Covid-19 surge - What WHO said, where are cases increasing, and why

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said her 'utmost priority' is to vaccinate this section. She has also said she plans to 'relaunch' the city 'as soon as the fifth wave stabilises' and will urgently re-allow quarantine-free travel when possible.

Hong Kong has managed to stamp out outbreaks with tough 'zero COVID' restrictions that closed businesses, limited public gatherings and imposed entry curbs - lengthy quarantines and flight bans from 'high-risk' nations.

That changed with the emergence of omicron - a highly transmissible variant.

Lam - criticised for a lack of readiness that has left hospitals and morgues - sought assistance from mainland China, which sent about 400 healthcare workers and medical resources to bolster anti-pandemic staff ranks.

Rising cases, however, have also exacerbated Hong Kong-China tension, after local media questioned if Chinese medics could be held accountable.

Omicron has also flared up in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, sparking anger among locals who blame Hong Kong. The tech hub is one of a number of cities facing restrictions because of the dangers posed by omicron.

China, meanwhile, reported its first Covid-19 deaths in a year - two were confirmed by the National Health Commission Saturday.  Both were from the north-eastern province of Jilin as the country faces its worst upsurge.

In all, China reported 4,051 new cases Saturday and 4,365 the day before.

With input from AP, Bloomberg, Reuters

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