Omicron cluster clouds Hong Kong’s virus-free streak | Daily News

Omicron cluster clouds Hong Kong’s virus-free streak

Hong Kong is one of the few places around the world that is still using a zero-COVID approach – meaning it aims to stamp out all COVID cases within its borders.
Hong Kong is one of the few places around the world that is still using a zero-COVID approach – meaning it aims to stamp out all COVID cases within its borders.

HONG KONG: Two Hong Kong residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, marking the first community spread of the virus in nearly seven months to people without a recent travel history or ties to the industry.

Both infections were linked to an air crew member who tested positive for the highly infectious Omicron variant after he moved about the city following an overseas flight.

The first community cluster of Omicron, which infects 70 times faster than previous strains, underscores the risk for Hong Kong’s COVID Zero strategy, which has kept local cases at bay since early June.

One patient, a 76-year-old man, is the father of the air crew member. He had lunch with his son and another woman at Moon Palace, an upscale, traditional Chinese restaurant in Kowloon Tong on December 27, Government officials said during a briefing.

The other is a 34-year-old man who was at the same eatery, seated 10m away, on the same afternoon with three family members.

The ability to trace the infections back to their origins suggests there isn’t yet a widespread local outbreak in the city, which has maintained a zero-tolerance approach to the pandemic. The potential Omicron risk led officials to mandate testing for everyone who lives in the same buildings as them.

The rising number of cases globally is already threatening Hong Kong as returning residents and new arrivals increasingly enter with undetected infections. Such imported cases account for most of the numbers throughout 2021.

The Asian financial hub has been imposing more stringent border controls and quarantine rules in an effort to keep the virus out of the community, but concerns are mounting that it will be left behind as other major cities shift toward living with COVID as endemic. The city of 7.4 million people has reported a total of 12,650 cases and 213 deaths throughout the COVID pandemic.

- THE BANGKOK POST


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