Omicron Achieves Important Milestone | The standard

The daily tally of Covid-19 infections in Hong Kong crossed the half-century mark with a staggering 55,353 cases confirmed yesterday as the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc.

That number of cases rose 70%, or 22,756, from 32,597 on Tuesday and pushed the number of RAS infections to more than 280,000 since the start of the fifth wave of the pandemic on December 31.

Health authorities also reported that 117 people with Covid aged between 58 and 100 had died on Tuesday, bringing the death toll from the fifth wave to 967.

And the toll is expected to top 1,000 today.

Albert Au Ka-wing, the chief medical and health officer at the Center for Health Protection, said only 27 of the latest cases were imported and the rest transmitted locally.

Although the number of daily cases has increased, Au insisted that the figures were within the range expected by health authorities.

There has recently been a doubling of infections every two or three days, he noted, and with more than 30,000 cases for each of the previous two days before yesterday “we expected the number of cases to exceed 50,000”.

And Au believes the numbers will continue to rise, although he added that some of the future increases in numbers will be due to the launch of an online platform for people who test positive for rapid antigens to report their infections.

Health authorities were still working on the platform with the Office of Innovation and Technology, Au said.

He also said that the platform could crash if too many people use it at the same time, and that experts are currently working on measures to avoid such a situation.

Au also revealed that 55 other care homes – 40 for the elderly and 15 for people with disabilities – recorded infections yesterday, involving 488 residents and 228 staff.

So far in the fifth wave, he said, 670 care homes have been infected.

Despite the severity of the pandemic situation, Au said the social distancing measures adopted by the authorities remain effective and capable of slowing the transmissions of the coronavirus.

“What we have observed is that the number of cases has increased, which indicates that there are still many chains of transmission in the community,” he said.

“Without the social distancing measures, the number of cases would have already increased exponentially” to a greater extent, he said.

Of the 27 cases imported yesterday, 23 arrived from Jakarta on flight CX796 on Tuesday. Most were domestic helpers, and the Cathay Pacific-operated flight will be banned from landing in Hong Kong for two weeks from today, Au said.

Larry Lee Lap-yip, chief director of integrated clinical services at the Hospital Authority, said of the 117 deaths recorded yesterday, 110 were elderly patients.

Lee also said that 95 of the 117 people who died on Tuesday had not been vaccinated, 16 had received only one Covid vaccine, while only six had received two doses.

One of the relatively younger patients was a 58-year-old mentally ill woman who had been in Kowloon Hospital since November last year. She was transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital after contracting Covid-19 in mid-February.

Three other of the young victims were all chronically ill. They were a 59-year-old woman and a 61-year-old man with kidney failure, and there was also a 60-year-old man with cancer.

Currently, 6,400 patients are hospitalized, including 64 in critical condition and 88 in serious condition, Lee said.

Meanwhile, the secretary to the head of innovation and technology, Alfred Sit Wing-hang, tested positive yesterday. She had met Sit on February 22 and had last worked on February 24.

Sit tested negative in a rapid test yesterday.

Security Secretary Chris Tang Ping-keung returned to his office yesterday after his wife and assistant were confirmed with Covid on February 23.

Tang had tested negative multiple times and completed his home quarantine yesterday.

Yiu Shing House at Tin Yiu Estate in Tin Shui Wai, Tak Loong House at Tak Long Estate in Kowloon City, Mayfair Gardens Block 11, Chun Yat House at Chun Yeung Estate in Sha Tin and Wo Tai House at On Tai Estate in Kwun Tong were closed yesterday afternoon after sewage discharges from buildings tested positive.

Authorities also locked down Wai Chun House in Sham Shui Po and buildings at Nos. 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33 and 35 Hung Kwong Street in To Kwa Wan after Covid cases were found. -19 in buildings.

The Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene also announced yesterday that it had extended the opening hours of its five crematoriums.

He also urged family members of the deceased to have the bodies removed as authorities were running out of space amid the pandemic.

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