- The expected number of new Covid-19 cases is nearly twice the amount recorded on Sunday, with one expert warning the daily count could hit 1,000 soon
- One official has warned residents who receive positive test results not to go to hospitals, but to remain home and await instructions from authorities instead
Hong Kong is expected to confirm more than 600 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, nearly twice the amount recorded the day before, as health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee and a local expert warned that the exponential growth of the fifth wave had already begun.
Professor Kwok Kin-on, an epidemiologist from Chinese University’s school of public health, predicted the daily confirmed case count would reach 1,000 soon.
“If one person can infect another four people, then it will cause nearly 1,000 people to be infected by the fifth generation in a few days,” he said, referring to successive rounds of transmission.
A source said the city would confirm 614 new cases on Monday after logging 342 on Sunday. There were also about 300 preliminary-positive infections recorded.
Fifteen of those preliminary cases were uncovered in an overnight lockdown on Sunday of Hing Tai House at Tai Hing Estate in Tuen Mun, site of a growing outbreak.
Health chief Chan said on Monday that the current local Covid-19 outbreak had become “extremely severe”.
Chan said she expected the case count to surge exponentially due to increased social activity over the recent Lunar New Year holiday.
“The situation will worsen if residents continue their social gatherings as usual; we must stay at home,” Chan told a radio show, saying the city was in a race against time.
Hospital Authority chief manager Dr Lau Ka-hin said many residents had rushed to emergency departments in public hospitals after receiving positive results from rapid testing kits on Sunday.
“Those residents with a positive test result from the test centres via text messages should stay at home and wait for instructions from officials, and stop contacting others,” he said.
The Executive Council, the city leader’s de facto cabinet, is expected to approve a further tightening of social-distancing measures on Tuesday, including which premises will be covered by a new vaccine pass.
As of Monday, Hong Kong’s running case count stood at 14,664 confirmed infections, with 213 deaths.
Dr Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said the tightened measures were a bid to buy time to boost the vaccination rate in the city.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on social media on Sunday that more than 80 per cent of eligible residents had received at least one Covid-19 jab, calling it a significant milestone.
However, that figure drops off substantially for older residents, who are particularly vulnerable to severe infections.
A former chief executive of the Hospital Authority, Leung Pak-yin, said in a social media post on Monday that vaccination would not necessarily prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but would reduce severe infections.
As such, he added, authorities should consider re-evaluating their yardstick for assessing the pandemic situation, basing it on the number of symptomatic patients and those in intensive care rather than simply the number of new cases each day.
Over the past two weeks, more than 320 untraceable cases have emerged, with 80 per cent involving the highly transmissible Omicron variant.