Hong Kong is one of the first places that hasn’t reported a locally sourced case in the last seven months. Even though Omicron cases were being brought in from other countries throughout the year. They never seeped into the local community until now. It’s time Hong Kong braces itself for the impending fifth wave.
The city has reported two Covid-19 cases after maintaining a virus-free streak for seven months. The virus was locally transmitted and detected by the authorities on Thursday. Infected individuals had no previous travel history and were fully vaccinated.
Who Got Infected With The Omicron Variant
An air crew member present at the restaurant was the first individual to carry Omicron. He was arriving from the USA on Christmas Day via Cathay Pacific.
The 76-year old individual was the father of the air crew member. Whereas, the other person who got infected was a 34 year old guy. He was seated 10 metres apart from the air crew member and his family. He was seen dining with his family of three members. Both the 76-year old and 34-year old were tested positive for Covid-19 later that day.
The authorities have since traced the virus back to a ground crew member. He worked at a restricted area in the airport. His duty was to check the boarding passes of the passengers where he first came face to face with the virus.
As the authorities were able to trace the infected individual. It suggests that there hasn’t been a large-scale local outbreak yet. Hong Kong has a zero tolerance approach towards the virus. It encourages citizens to get themselves tested on a priority basis.
However, as a preventive measure, the building where the two patients lived was sealed. The testing was made mandatory for the residents without any exceptions.
Hong Kong authorities are currently closely monitoring 19 other suspected Covid-19 cases. One of these cases includes a cargo pilot, who recently returned back from his trip to the States. The individual has visited various bars and restaurants post-arrival. However, later he was tested positive and was sent to a quarantine facility.
Hong Kong Authorities Vs Omicron
Since the discovery of Omicron’s first two cases, the individuals residing in the building have been placed under lockdown. A mass testing campaign has been launched by the authorities. This restriction also applies to people who have recently visited the respective building.
The widespread operation covers sixty other locations across the city. Residents are given the permission to leave once they show their negative test results.
The eatery where two cases were initially detected has been under lockdown. It would help the staff clean and disinfect the area before reopening again.
Furthermore, the authorities have tightened quarantine restrictions for the air crew. Cathay Pacific was urged to cancel its flights. As a preventive measure, flights from and to Hong Kong were cancelled for the first quarter of 2022. Additionally, long haul cargo flights are also suspended for a week.
Is Zero-Covid Approach effective?
Hong Kong is one of the pioneers of adopting the zero-Covid approach. Through this initiative, it plans to eliminate all the cases within its borders. Strict border control and intensive quarantine are synonymous with this approach.
Researchers have laid out their concerns regarding this approach. They believe that it’s not sustainable and lacks practicality. Hong Kong’s focus should be on bringing up its vaccination numbers. Currently, less than 70% of the population is vaccinated. This statistic is well below what is usually seen in developed countries.
This strategy is effective in Hong Kong as it has only seen a few cases within its borders. As the number of cases increase, it might not be very intelligent to stick to this strategy. Its rigidity and inflexibility make it a hurdle rather than facilitation.
Authorities in Hong Kong need to fine-tune their approach towards Omicron. Prolonged restrictions can curtail the spread of the virus. But, the economy and people’s livelihood would be negatively impacted. Individual’s lives would be made difficult as commuting to work every day becomes a hassle. It’s time for Hong Kong to reconsider its control policy in light of the recent spread of Omicron.
The next two weeks are crucial for Hong Kong’s future. What strategy do you think would be effective against Omicron?