Trams (center) travel along a street in Hong Kong on Aug 25, 2022. (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)
HONG KONG - Hong Kong’s COVID-19 caseload surpassed the 10,000 mark on Thursday as cases linked to the Omicron subvariants BA.4 or BA.5 continued to increase and accounted for 60 percent of new infections.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said at a news briefing that there were 10,586 new cases, including 349 imported infections. The last time the number of new cases reached over 10,000 was on March 25, when 10,405 infections were recorded.
Of the 349 imported cases, 73 were detected at the airport and 81 at quarantine hotels. Twenty-seven cases each came from the Philippines and Thailand, 23 from the United Kingdom, and 20 from India
Eleven reported deaths on Thursday brought the city’s toll during the fifth wave to 9,488.
“The figures are going up..We see BA.5 is going up. Roughly half the cases are mutation strains..We cannot predict how fast the cases will increase. We’re keeping a close eye on the hospital admissions,” Chuang said.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of the fifth wave where we had more than 50,000 cases. The majority of the public have received booster shots. We hope we can do a better job there.”
She said the BA.5 strain accounted for 52.8 percent of new cases while the previously dominant strain BA2.2 was linked to 33.5 percent. BA.4 cases accounted for 7.2 percent and BA.2.12.1 had 6.5 percent.
Of the 349 imported cases, 73 were detected at the airport and 81 at quarantine hotels. Twenty-seven cases each came from the Philippines and Thailand, 23 from the United Kingdom, and 20 from India.
Six residential care homes for the elderly and people with disabilities had new cases while 84 schools reported 113 students and 26 teaching staff members being infected. Chuang added that seven schools had to suspend some in-person classes for one week.
She said 590,000 students and 90,000 teaching staff members went to school on Thursday, the start of a new school term. However, over 550 students and staff members who got infected in the last three days remained at home.
“School has started. The Hospital Authority figures are going up…We’re seeing some serious children cases. We don’t want to see that occur so we urge everybody to get their children vaccinated,” Chuang said.
She said the government will "reduce the vaccination passport age to 5 years old and they need to get two shots.”
“By next week, we might have some details from the government. So, there will be a two-month transition period for parents to get their children vaccinated,” she added.
Lau Ka-hin, chief manager (quality and standards) of the Hospital Authority, said in the same briefing that the 11 elderly patients who passed away included five men and six women aged 78 to 94 years old.
Seven of the patients were not fully vaccinated and most of them also had chronic diseases like hypertension, stroke, and dementia.
Lau said there were 2,627 COVID in-patients receiving treatment as of Thursday at public hospitals, including 349 new patients.
Forty-eight were in critical condition, including 14 receiving intensive care, and 58 in serious condition, he added.
On Wednesday, a shipment of about 190,000 doses of the Comirnaty vaccine that had been ordered by the government arrived in the city, according to a government statement.
This batch of the Comirnaty vaccine was manufactured by BioNTech and filled and finished at a plant in Germany, it added.
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