Hong Kong considers lockdown as daily infections top 34,000

Hong Kong reported a record-high 34,466 new infections Monday as deaths continued to climb, with health authorities saying that a lockdown has not been ruled out even though the city’s leader last week said that a citywide lockdown was unrealistic.

Hong Kong is currently grappling with the fifth wave of the coronavirus, driven primarily by the omicron variant. Monday’s more than 34,000 cases have more than quadrupled from a week ago, when the city reported over 7,500 infections.

“Once every three days the case number will double,” said Albert Au, principal medical and health officer of the city’s Centre for Health Protection during a daily virus briefing. “We think that the number will continue to climb.”

The city also reported 87 deaths Monday. Of the 87 deaths, 67 were unvaccinated.

Health authorities said there could be measures put in place by the government that may involve “asking people to stay at home,” and that it remains to be seen if such measures will be done via legislation or other means.

Hong Kong’s health minister Sophia Chan said during a radio program Monday that the government was “still discussing” the matter of a lockdown to reduce the flow of people and maximize the effectiveness of the mass-testing exercise.

Hong Kong officials last week announced citywide universal testing slated for March, with more than 7 million of the city’s residents required to undergo testing three times.

Authorities have extended social distancing measures, such as a dine-in ban after 6 p.m., to April and brought forward summer holidays for students to March so that schools can be turned into testing centers, isolation facilities and vaccination premises. Students who have their holidays moved forward are likely to attend school through the summer, though international schools in the city are not affected.

Since the beginning of the fifth wave in Hong Kong at the end of 2021, the city has reported 193,149 infections.

Mainland authorities have also sent expert teams and medical resources to Hong Kong, as the city rushed to build temporary isolation facilities to cope with the surge in infections.

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