Hong Kong’s police chief has become the latest high-profile figure to test positive for Covid-19, as a leading microbiologist said that the steady rise in cases requiring hospital treatment was “within expectation.”

The government announced on Tuesday that the Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu tested positive for Covid-19 through a rapid antigen test and was undergoing isolation.

covid-19 covid hospital
Photo: Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

Health authorities said that as of Monday, there were a total of 48 patients in a critical condition and 35 in a serious condition. Eleven of the critical patients are receiving intensive care. Last Tuesday, there were 27 critical patients and 25 in a serious condition, while nine were being treated in intensive care.

“All these are within expectation. The dominating viral strain shifted from BA.2 to BA.5 and the change caused an increase of infections overall,” University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said on an RTHK programme on Tuesday morning.

“The ratio of serious cases is actually low… only around 0.21 per cent. But when the base increases as more people are infected, the number of severe cases and people needing intensive care rises.”

Elderly and young children

Ho said it was worth noting that more elderly and young children were contracting Covid-19. He said the infections among residents aged 80 or above had increased by 200 per cent and those in young children aged 3 to 11 rose by nearly 180 per cent in the past week, compared to the week before.

Ho said that while he was concerned by the burden this could place on public hospitals, what was more worrying was the lacklustre vaccination rate, especially among the elderly.

elderly senior old people covid 19 vaccine vaccination
Photo: HK Gov.

“There are vaccines and [Covid] medication available but no one is getting them,” Ho said, adding that there were still more than 100,000 residents aged 80 and above who were unvaccinated. Ho urged those who had received three jabs to get a fourth dose, as antibody levels decrease gradually over time.

He also recommended the authorities to vaccinate residents of elderly homes. The fifth wave of the pandemic took the lives of thousands of people, many of whom were aged 60 years or above.

When the fifth wave peaked in March, Ho said that around 70 per cent of care home residents were infected, but their antibodies would have dwindled in the months since. He warned of more outbreaks at care homes if the elderly are not protected.

Rising infections

Hong Kong saw 6,617 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, the highest daily caseload since late March.

The AsiaWorld-Expo quarantine facility was reopened on Monday, providing 200 beds. Authorities said around 100 healthcare workers had been transferred to work there.

The AsiaWorld-Expo venue accepts elderly patients who do not have family members to take care of them, patients isolating at Penny’s Bay with a more complicated condition and those who are in stable condition at public hospitals.

Hong Kong has logged 1,464,855 infections and 9,610 related deaths since the pandemic began.

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Almond Li

Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.