Boosting vaccination among seniors, kids urged as Hong Kong sees Omicron outbreak
Published: Jan 09, 2022 10:29 PM
A woman checks a menu outside a restaurant in Langham place, in Hong Kong, China, on January 2, 2022. Photo: VCG

A woman checks a menu outside a restaurant in Langham place, in Hong Kong, China, on January 2, 2022. Photo: VCG

 Experts have urged authorities in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to enhance the vaccination rate and strengthen the tracing of contacts to cases who tested COVID-19 positive as the city is dealing with a potential fifth-wave epidemic caused by the Omicron variant. 

Hong Kong reported 33 new confirmed cases on Sunday, including 27 imported ones, five imported-related cases and one local untraceable case, which involves a 20-year-old saleswoman in a department store in Causeway Bay. Another 20 people also tested preliminary-positive. 

The city has seen a surge in infections in the past month and some people have expressed worries about an explosion of infections caused by Omicron, especially with the untraceable infections recently found in Hong Kong. 

As the regional government is actively promoting the reopening of the border between Hong Kong and the mainland, the wait is likely to get longer due to the new outbreak. 

However, Jin Dongyan, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, dismissed such concerns and said a fifth wave could be "nipped in the bud" given Hong Kong's "reliable and effective" epidemic prevention and control system.

There would not be a large-scale outbreak as long as the authorities carry out scientific and targeted prevention and control work, he said. "Transmission at the community level in Hong Kong has just begun but we have already taken radical measures," he told the Global Times on Sunday, noting that the authorities should continue to strengthen the tracing of COVID-19 cases. 

He also urged an increase in vaccination coverage in the city, especially for children, the elderly and those with underlying diseases. "As can be seen from the positive cases, those who were vaccinated all showed mild or no symptoms and carried a low viral load."

Multiple community vaccination centers in Hong Kong are fully booked in the next few days, and some centers doubled the number of slots starting from Sunday, according to Hong Kong media.

As of the press time on Sunday, about 74.4 percent of Hong Kong residents have been vaccinated with one dose, and 69.8 percent with two. More than 500,000 people have taken a third shot, according to statistics provided by the HKSAR government. 

But the vaccination rate among the elderly aged 80 and above is only 23 percent, and the rate is also low among children, according to Lau Yu-lung, chairman of the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases, media reported. 

The HKSAR government has stepped up efforts to prevent further infections caused by Omicron. Flights from eight countries were banned for two weeks from Saturday. No in-house dinning is allowed from 6 pm to 5 am in restaurants, starting from Friday, and multiple public places, including bars, gyms and theaters have been closed.  

"This wave will come and go quite quickly," said Jin, noting that Hong Kong society could get back to normal by a "fair degree" by the Chinese New Year, which falls at the end of January.