Hong Kong’s fifth wave of Covid-19 has already reached its peak, a top mainland epidemic expert said as the city recorded a downward trend in daily cases during recent days.

Liang Wannian, head of the National Health Commission’s Covid-19 leading task force. Photo: Screenshot, via RTHK.

The head of the National Health Commission’s Covid-19 task force, Liang Wannian, said on Wednesday that infection and death figures have stabilised.

“At least one thing is certain. The rapid, exponential growth [of cases] has clearly been suppressed. But how long the plateau goes on for will depend on our anti-epidemic measures,” Liang added.

Hong Kong is in the midst of its worst outbreak since the pandemic began over two years ago, with tens of thousands of infections recorded daily. For three consecutive days in early March, the city confirmed some 50,000 cases.

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The figure has since dipped to 20,000-30,000 daily cases, although the number shot up again on Wednesday, the day after a government website launched allowing people to self-report positive rapid test results.

Health authorities confirmed 31,402 new infections on Thursday, of which 7,012 were positive results from rapid tests. Another 281 deaths in public hospitals – including fatalities over the past 24 hours and backlogged figures – were added to the city’s toll.

‘Reducing severe cases, death and spread’

Liang, who has been described as the chief architect of mainland China’s dynamic zero-Covid strategy, is the most high-profile official among teams of anti-epidemic experts who have arrived from over the border in recent weeks.

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

Earlier, he questioned the timing of the government’s planned mass Covid-19 testing scheme and said Hong Kong should mobilise its resources to protect the elderly instead. Chief Executive Carrie Lam then appeared to U-turn over the city’s strategy.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Lam said her administration has “taken on the advice given by mainland experts, particularly Liang Wannian,” adding that the focus “should be on reducing severe cases, death and the spread of the disease.”

Universal testing, Lam added, was not a priority at this time.

Meanwhile, the city is pressing ahead with building four more community isolation facilities by the end of the month. The unit in San Tin, the site of an outdoor shopping mall in Yuen Long, was completed on Wednesday.

Including Thursday’s figures, Hong Kong has seen 617,419 Covid-19 cases obtained from nucleic acid tests and rapid antigen tests since the onset of the pandemic two years ago, and 3,150 deaths.

Correction 3.11: A previous version of this story misstated the Covid-19 case and death figures as of Thursday. The latest number is 617,419 cases and 3,150 deaths. The error was introduced during editing.

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