The recent surge of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong has peaked, a local health official has said, citing a gradual decline in the average daily caseload over the past two weeks. But the city may not achieve zero infections again after experiencing the fifth wave, he said.
Hong Kong reported 5,990 new cases and 17 new deaths on Thursday, marking a “downward” trend from a peak of around 10,000 infections recorded earlier this month, Albert Au of the Centre for Health Protection said during Thursday’s regular Covid-19 press briefing.
The principal medical and health officer said the city’s seven-day moving average of reported case as of Wednesday stood at 6,731, which was an “obvious drop” compared to 10,090 logged on September 8. The gradual decline has lasted for almost 14 days, Au said.
“Now we can know, relatively clearly, that perhaps the peak has passed. The pandemic is starting to stabilise and trending down,” the health official said, adding other indicators such as hospitalisation rate and surveillance of sewage samples were also stable.
The health official pointed to Omicron variant BA.5, which he said took up a high proportion of the cases reported in Hong Kong. Based on overseas experience, when the sub-variant takes up more than 80 per cent of the infections, it would enter a “plateau stage” and the number of cases in the community would drop.
“This is also a golden opportunity… for citizens who have not been fully vaccinated – especially children and elderly – to receive their jabs as soon as possible to allow society to return to normalcy,” he said.
The BA.5 variant is expected to “linger” in the community and transmission chains would remain as the vaccination rate of children and the elderly “was not very high,” Au said. Health authorities could not at present estimate how low the infections may dip, he added.
“Before the fifth wave, we could achieve zero Covid. But after experiencing the fifth wave, this may not be possible,” he said.
Local media on Friday cited sources as saying the government would announce easing quarantine arrangements for inbound travellers, with previous reports suggesting that hotel quarantine may be scrapped.