Why Is Covid Death Rate So High In Hong Kong?

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  • Hong Kong has recorded 5,000 Covid deaths.
  • However, that figure drops to almost 37% among those aged 80 and above.
  • But in a sign that thousands of Omicron infections might be forcing a more dynamic approach from authorities.

Coronavirus infections are on the rise in Hong Kong, which has the world’s greatest incidence of covid-19 mortality for its population size. In Hong Kong, 5,000 people have died from Covid, and the population of 7.5 million people is predicted to reach 1 million cases as reported by The Guardian.

Covid containment

Previously a global model for covid containment, the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 has soared as Hong Kong’s zero covid strategies has failed to contain the more contagious omicron variant.

The city’s low vaccine coverage is also aiding transmission and leading to more fatalities, said epidemiologists.

Hong Kong’s isolation centres, hospitals, and morgues are overflowing, and some shops have empty shelves as residents are hoarding supplies in anticipation of a potential city-wide lockdown, the news agency Reuters has reported.

The covid death rate in Hong Kong is now above 25 per 100 000 residents—higher than in the UK last December when the omicron variant first appeared.

“The enforced [isolation] in Hong Kong worked really well in the early pandemic before there was widespread community transmission of the virus—but now, under the ongoing zero covid strategy, it is impossible to do this for all new cases,” he said.

Vaccination catch-up

Residents of Hong Kong with confirmed covid-19 were previously required to quarantine in hospitals, while close contacts were required to isolate in designated facilities.

Close contacts can now quarantine at home.

Most vaccines administered in Hong Kong are manufactured in China.

Some of these vaccines, such as CoronaVac, have been shown to be less effective than mRNA vaccines at preventing infection and serious illness.

Over 90% of those dying from covid-19 had not received the full vaccination scheme, said Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, on 11 March. 

She has ruled out using lockdowns to bring down cases.

China

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region, but the Chinese government has clamped down on its freedoms in recent years, increasing people’s distrust in authority and vaccines, said local experts.

The fact that most of the vaccines administered are made in China adds to this mistrust, as well as misinformation on western manufactured jabs, such as Pfizer-BioNTech.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, ordered Hong Kong’s leaders to get a grip on covid-19 last month, but the public health crisis is no longer limited to 7.4 million strong Hong Kong: China recorded its biggest one day increase in covid cases on 14 March, with new infections more than doubling.

Over 80 million people in China are locked down, including international manufacturing hubs such as Shenzhen.

“The chance of a major outbreak in China is reasonably high,” said Jin Dong-Yan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong situation

Hong Kong is in the grip of its worst Covid outbreak.

The surge in infections during the fifth wave has outpaced other cities around the world.

University of Hong Kong virologist Vijaykrishna Dhanasekaran said one factor behind the high rate was Hong Kong’s “high-density population and cramped spaces, especially in public housing estates”.

The city’s public healthcare system has also buckled under Omicron, with devastating effects.

Patients were left to wait outside hospitals while bodies stacked up inside wards.

High death rate

Before the fifth wave, Hong Kong had reported a total of 212 coronavirus-related deaths.

Now it is recording above that amount daily.

Virologist Siddharth Sridhar at Hong Kong University’s Department of Microbiology said Hong Kong’s Covid-19 death rate – among the worst in the world – was “tragic but expected”, pinning it on a “perfect storm” of low vaccination rates among elderly people, low rates of prior infection and an overwhelmed healthcare system.

Dhanasekaran said: “The data is really clear … Most people who end up in hospitals are not vaccinated, most people who are in severe conditions are elderly.”

However, that figure drops to almost 37% among those aged 80 and above.

Sinovac vaccine 

Government data shows Sinovac to be the preferred vaccine among those aged 70 and over, despite several studies indicating it is less effective – particularly against Omicron – than the BioNTech vaccine.

That could be, in part, because some elderly care homes offer only the Sinovac jab to residents.

According to Dhanasekaran, Sinovac “has been shown to work really well in many countries” against earlier strains of the virus, although it was “not as effective as the BioNTech [jab]”.

Dhanasekaran said: “Having some vaccines is better than no vaccines”, adding that “Sinovac is not really the biggest issue here – the low vaccination rate is absolutely the problem.”

Hong Kong against Omicron

Mainland China is battling a number of Omicron outbreaks that have seen almost 30 million people locked down.

But in a sign that thousands of Omicron infections might be forcing a more dynamic approach from authorities, China approved the use of rapid antigen tests last Sunday – a first in the country, which has relied exclusively on nucleic acid tests to confirm Covid patients.

In mainland China, about 50% of those aged 80 and above are fully vaccinated.

He captioned it: “A picture is worth a thousand words.

A warning message to the Chinese mainland.”

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Source: The Guardian

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