Hong Kong officials eye China-style lockdown, as bodies pile up in hospitals

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Hong Kong officials have not ruled out imposing a strict lockdown, similar to those imposed in China at the start of the pandemic. Officials are facing an increasingly desperate situation as the Omicron variant has run amok in the territory, destroying any hope of attaining the so-called zero-Covid status. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Reuters reports bodies are piling up in hospitals because mortuaries are full.

For 2 years, Hong Kong managed to keep Covid-19 largely under control, but the Omicron variant has put paid to all that, showing how little officials had done to prepare for a mass outbreak. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has previously said there would not be a city-wide lockdown, relying instead on mass testing of all 7.4 million residents this month. However, Health Secretary Sophia Chan says a lockdown is still an option. She was responding to a radio interviewer who asked her if the measure had been ruled out.

“No. We are still discussing. From a public health perspective, to bring out the best effect of compulsory universal testing, we need to reduce people’s movements to some extent. In order to reduce movements, residents should remain at home or avoid outings as much as possible”.

Having recorded just 12,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, on Sunday, Hong Kong reported 26,000 new infections and 83 deaths in a single day. 91% of those who died were not fully vaccinated, with the majority of them elderly. According to the Reuters report, the virus has torn through the city’s care homes, where vaccination rates among the over 70s were poor prior to the arrival of Omicron.

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As the crisis deepens, Beijing has now become more involved in how Hong Kong manages the pandemic. Officials from the mainland are overseeing the construction of temporary hospitals and isolation wards, but patient numbers far outstrip available beds.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Maya Taylor

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