Hong Kong’s zero COVID plan under pressure | Canberra time


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Hong Kong is set to report a record of around 610 new COVID-19 cases, broadcaster TVB reports, in the biggest test yet for the city’s zero COVID strategy as it struggles to contain a growing outbreak. . About 300 others were found positive in preliminary testing, TVB said, citing an unnamed source. The global financial hub, which is following mainland China‘s strategy of suppressing all coronavirus outbreaks as soon as possible, has seen cases soar since January with more than 2,000 infections compared to just two in December. The city recorded 342 cases on Sunday, slightly below the previous day’s record of 351 cases. The city is expected to report a record high of around 610 cases on Monday. Dozens of bank branches, including outlets of HSBC and Bank of China, said they would suspend operations from Monday to help curb transmissions. Health Secretary Sophia Chan said over the weekend she expects cases to rise “exponentially”. The former British colony has become one of the most isolated cities in the world, with flights down around 90% due to strict coronavirus regulations and schools, playgrounds, gymnasiums as well as the most other sites closed. Restaurants close at 6 p.m., while most people, including the majority of civil servants, work from home. The economic and psychological consequences of the drastic approach are growing rapidly, with the measures becoming more drastic than those first implemented in 2020. Government quarantine facilities are also approaching their maximum as authorities struggle to keep up with their rigid contact tracing system. Authorities hold daily briefings providing details of each infected person, including where they went and ate. However, as cases increase, methods such as searching credit card statements and transportation records to identify close contacts are much more difficult. There are probably hundreds of chains of transmission in the community, they said. In total, Hong Kong has recorded 213 COVID deaths and around 15,000 cases since the start of 2020, far fewer than other similar major cities. Health experts have said the city’s current strategy of shutting down as the rest of the world turns to living with the coronavirus is unsustainable. About 80% of the city’s 7.5 million residents have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine, but the majority of older people are still unvaccinated, according to government figures. Of these, around 40% received the China-made Sinovac vaccine, considered far less effective against the disease than that produced by Germany’s BioNTech, the other vaccine available in the city. Two pet cats have tested positive for coronavirus, the government announced on Friday, as it urged pet owners to avoid kissing animals. In January, authorities ordered the culling of more than 2,000 hamsters at dozens of pet stores, after tracing an outbreak in a worker at a store where 11 hamsters tested positive. Australian Associated Press



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