Despite the fact that the worst pandemic epidemic in Hong Kong did not occur until 2022, the visuals seem straight out of the year 2020.
Hospitals and morgues are overflowing, with bodies being left unattended in hallways and rooms with live patients. Employees in the health-care industry, who work an average of 80 hours per week, are prone to burnout and low morale. Nursing homes are being demolished, according to Our World in Data, and low vaccination rates among the elderly have pushed Hong Kong’s Covid-19 death rate to the highest in the world.
As Hong Kong’s zero COVID policy has failed to limit the more contagious omicron strain, which was previously a global paradigm for COVID containment, SARS-CoV-2 transmission has risen. Epidemiologists believe that the city’s low vaccine coverage helps transmission and increases death.
Hong Kong’s isolation centers, hospitals, and morgues are overflowing, according to Reuters, and some businesses have empty shelves as residents stockpile supplies in preparation for a possible city-wide lockdown.
When the omicron variant first appeared in December, the COVID death rate in Hong Kong had already topped 25 per 100,000 people, surpassing the rate in the United Kingdom.
Residents of Hong Kong with confirmed COVID-19 had to quarantine in hospitals, while close family members had to isolate in specialized facilities. However, as the number of cases has increased, hospital discharge standards have reduced, allowing for shorter hospital stays. Close friends and family members can now quarantine at home.
The majority of vaccines used in Hong Kong are made in China. Some of these vaccines, such as CoronaVac, have been demonstrated to be less efficient at preventing infection and serious disease than mRNA vaccines. According to Tang, boosting with mRNA vaccines could help reduce transmission.
However, many Hong Kong residents have not yet been totally stabbed. On March 11, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, stated that over 90% of individuals who died from covid-19 had not got the full vaccination schedule. “We need to catch up and vaccinate every Hong Kong citizen,” she said, as China put further pressure on her to limit infections.
Vijaykrishna Dhanasekaran, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said one reason for the high rate was Hong Kong’s “high-density population and small surroundings, especially in public housing estates.”
Omicron has also weakened the city’s public healthcare system, with disastrous consequences. While bodies piled up inside wards, patients were left to wait outside hospitals. Omicron eventually entered elderly care homes and discovered a particularly susceptible segment of the population, made all the more so by the city’s senior people’ low immunization rate.
Hong Kong had reported a total of 212 coronavirus-related deaths prior to the fifth wave. It is now recording more than that amount on a daily basis.
Virologist Siddharth Sridhar of Hong Kong University’s Department of Microbiology described Hong Kong’s Covid-19 fatality rate as “tragic but anticipated,” blaming it on a “perfect storm” of poor vaccination rates among the elderly, low past infection rates, and an overburdened healthcare system.
“The evidence is pretty obvious,” Dhanasekaran said. “The majority of people who end up in hospitals are not vaccinated, and the majority of persons who are in serious illnesses are elderly.” It’s crystal evident what’s gone wrong.”
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader, has admitted that the city’s vaccination rate played a role. Currently, 81 percent of persons aged 12 and up have got two doses of the two vaccinations available in Hong Kong: Sinovac, a standard inactivated vaccine made in China, and BioNTech, a German mRNA vaccine. However, among people aged 80 and up, this figure reduces to about 37%.
Mainland China is dealing with a series of Omicron epidemics that have affected almost 30 million individuals. On Monday, the governor of China’s north-eastern Jilin province, which is currently the epicenter of the country’s illnesses, pledged to “achieve community zero-Covid in a week,” according to state media.
However, in an indication that hundreds of Omicron infections are compelling authorities to take a more proactive approach, China allowed the use of fast antigen tests last Sunday, a first for the country, which had previously relied solely on nucleic acid tests to confirm Covid patients.
Although China has yet to announce a spike in mortality linked to the most recent wave of infections, experts concur that the country’s zero-Covid policy is still on the verge of collapse.