The US health authority has urged its citizens to “avoid travel to Hong Kong” because of the “very high level” of Covid-19 in the city.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Hong Kong to its highest-risk Level 4 category for travel on Monday as the fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak continues to batter the city.

US CDC’s travel health risk warning about Hong Kong. Photo: Screenshot, via GovUS.

According to the CDC’s notice, the Covid-19 level in Hong Kong is “very high.” It warned that even people who had received their booster shots were at risk of contracting or spreading the disease.

The US health authority suggested that anyone who had to visit Hong Kong made sure they were up to date with their vaccines and that they “follow all requirements and recommendations” in the city. In addition, the wearing of well-fitting masks was advised in all indoor public areas for anyone over the age of two.

The CDC requires people returning from Hong Kong to obtain a negative test result within a day before their departure, as well as provide contact information to airlines for contact tracing.

It also recommended that individuals undergo a Covid-19 test within three to five days after coming back from Hong Kong. Those who have not received their booster shot were additionally advised to self-isolate at home for five days.

Last Wednesday, the US Department of State has advised citizens against travelling to Hong Kong, citing strict Covid-19 rules and “the risk of parents and children being separated.”

How was the level determined?

According to the CDC website, the travel health risk categories are primarily determined by the number of Covid-19 cases at each destination reported to the World Health Organization. Places with a population of over 100,000 will be listed as Level 4 if more than 500 cases were found per 100,000 residents within the past 28 days.

The rate of testing and the ratio between positive cases and testing counts are also taken into account when assessing the travel risk level of a destination.

Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong during the fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Data from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department showed that the city had a population of approximately 7.4 million by the end of 2021. About 6,600 cases have been identified per 100,000 people in the past 28 days.

Last Thursday and Friday, Hong Kong reported over 50,000 new daily cases, and the figures stayed above 30,000 over the weekend. Despite the drop in case counts, health authorities warned that the statistic alone did not provide full picture as the numbers only represented nucleic test results.

The number of patients who tested positive with rapid antigen tests have not been included in the city’s daily case loads. A website inviting residents to report their positive rapid test results went online on Monday night.

As of Monday, the city has recorded 471,617 Covid-19 infections and 2,007 deaths since the pandemic began.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.