Hong Kong reported 3,028 Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the first time the city has surpassed 3,000 daily cases since early April, and one health official said the figure might double within two weeks.
Despite the increase, the government said separately it was halting its flight suspension mechanism, which had been strongly criticised by travellers and airlines.
Out of the total, 172 infections were imported, and the city also reported one death on Thursday. Since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago, Hong Kong has recorded 1,262,122 infections and 9,407 deaths.
The last time Hong Kong saw over 3,000 Covid-19 infections was on April 5, when the city was recovering from its worst Covid wave.
Asked if the increase marked the beginning of the sixth wave of the outbreak, Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said the number might double in one or two weeks’ time.
“As to what wave this is, I think this is just a name, we will not delve into it,” said Chuang, who added that the city might see a daily rate of 6,000 cases within a fortnight based on the trend over the past few weeks.
The flight suspension mechanism imposed five-day flight route bans on airlines if at least five passengers – or five per cent of travellers on the same flight, whichever number was higher – tested positive for Covid upon arrival.
Asked if she was worried that the suspension would lead to an increase in the number of imported cases, Chuang said the government would consider different factors.
“As for anti-epidemic measures, I think the government will look at it comprehensively, and consider multiple factors,” she said.
Arrivals still have to be fully vaccinated before they are allowed to enter the city and must serve seven days in hotel quarantine at their own expense. It was announced Thursday that they will have to undergo an additional PCR test on the third day of quarantine in addition to existing mandatory tests.
Hong Kong has maintained one of the world’s strictest quarantine and social-distancing restrictions. As the summer approaches, complaints over the shortage of designated quarantine hotel rooms emerged as the peak season for overseas students to return to Hong Kong nears.