Hong Kong’s Covid-19 epidemic has ended, a government advisor has said, adding that there was “no need to worry” even in the event of a rebound.
Ivan Hung, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the University of Hong Kong’s medical faculty, said in an interview with RTHK published on Monday that the population had already built up immunity against the most common strains of Covid-19.
“The city’s Covid-19 epidemic has already come to an end,” Hung said. “[We] expect there may be a slight rebound in June or July… [patients’] symptoms should be mild and may not be easily identifiable.”
He added that most people had already been infected with either Omicron BA.2 or BA.5, the two endemic subvariants, so the “mixed immunity barrier” was “extremely high.”
The virus is also less active in the summer, Hung said, meaning the chances of an infected person experiencing complications were lower.
Hong Kong scrapped the last of its pandemic restrictions in recent months, with the government announcing that Covid-19 is now being treated as an upper respiratory tract illness.
Authorities said last week that visitors to public hospitals and residential care homes will no longer have to take a Covid-19 rapid antigen test beforehand. The daily testing requirement for kindergarten and primary school students, in place since April last year as the city resumed in-person teaching, was also lifted earlier this month.
Hung said, however, that high-risk groups including the elderly and immunocompromised patients should get boosted against Covid-19 as they face a higher chance of inflammation, especially in the lungs, even after they have recovered.
Uptick in influenza activity
While the Centre for Health Protection said in a weekly report that Covid-19 activity had been stable, “overall seasonal influenza activity” had “slightly increased.”
The report, which covered the period between March 12 and March 18, showed that admission rates for influenza patients at public hospitals had risen week on week.
“Given that members of the public do not need to wear a mask mandatorily since March 1 this year, the risk for influenza transmission will become higher and members of the public should not lower their guard,” the government said in a statement last week.
It added that children and the elderly were encouraged to get vaccinated against influenza. The vaccine is being administered at child health centres under the Department of Health as well as at the city’s community vaccination centres.
Nine cases of severe influenza infection have been recorded in March so far, compared to five cases in January to February, authorities said.
Correction 28/3: A previous version of this article erroneously referred to Covid-19 as a bacteria, rather than a virus. We regret the error.
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