Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Hong Kong’s Covid measures

the virus. Businesses did not worry about the possibility of a total lockdown, which has never happened, to this day, in Hong Kong.

The failures of zero-COVID

In December 2021, 2 Cathay Pacific flight attendants returned to Hong Kong from the United States and broke home isolation rules. 8 They both tested positive of the Omicron Variant later on and this marked the onset of the Omicron wave in the city. With the Omicron variant being more contagious than any of the previous variant, the number of infected cases grew exponentially.

Zero-COVID failed in Hong Kong. It is estimated 50% of people in Hong Kong have contracted the virus at some point. 9 Why did the city, with the world’s most stringent COVID restrictions, succumb to the Omicron? Firstly, Omicron is simply much more infectious than other variants of COVID. The Omicron Variant’s mutations allowed it to disguise itself against antibodies and reproduce massively before the human body’s defense system kicked in, resulting in a higher viral load. 10 Vaccines also had far less effect against COVID. Fully vaccinated individuals were almost just as likely to be infected with Omicron – though with

Figure 12: Daily COVID infections from March 2020 to August 2022. Compare with figure 11, where the peak case rate was 140, with this new peak of 65,000 per day. Source: Our World in Data, 2022.

usually much less severe symptoms and a much higher chance of survival. Its transmissibility means that the virus can be passed from person to person extremely quickly, requiring short contact times between the infected and the uninfected, and in a dense and concentrated place like Hong Kong, Omicron spread like wildfire. Secondly, the government placed too much trust in Zero-COVID and did not prepare for the worst- case scenario. The administration was confident in the ability of Zero-COVID to keep out all variants, including Omicron. They neglected the possibility of exponentiating infections numbers such as those in the United Kingdom in late 2021 during the first appearance of Omicron, so no back-up plan was prepared for such a scenario. Zero-COVID worked best with low case numbers – it would certainly not be possible to implement and use such stringent measures with cases in the thousands. Thirdly, Zero- COVID further intensified people’s Pandem ic Fatigue. People were growing tired of such restrictive policies, especially when it comes to travelling overseas for leisure, something impractical due to lengthy quarantines. On the other hand, the severity of COVID was

8 BBC, 2022. 9 Bloomberg, 2022. 10 Scientific American, 2021.


Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs