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Health officials warn, fourth wave of Covid-19 infections could be most severe

18 September 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Dr Chan says a new wave has always been more serious than the previous one

Hong Kong health officials say they expect a fourth wave of coronavirus outbreak during the winter, and that it could be more serious than the third wave which peaked two months ago.

The alert was issued by Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Sophia Chan during a press conference earlier today, Sept 19, to give an update on the local coronavirus situation, and the government’s latest actions to combat the contagion.

“It’s expected that the fourth outbreak may happen in winter. The situation may be more serious than the third wave,” she said.

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Dr Chan said two factors indicate that Hong Kong is facing an even worse outbreak. First, the fact that the second wave was worse than the first, and the third, worse than the second. This could mean that if a fourth wave does occur, it could only be worse than the third, which continues to affect the city.

The second reason, according to her, is that the virus keeps mutating, with the later mutations worse than previous ones.

This is why the government is not letting its guard down, despite a drastic drop in the number of new infections, which in early to mid-July went up to more than 100 each day.

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She made the statement as three new cases of Covid-19 were reported today, two of which were linked to previous infections, and the third an imported case in the United Kingdom, which brought the city’s total to 4,996.

Chan also disclosed that the government has set aside $8.4 billion to procure vaccines for twice as many as Hong Kong’s total population.

"Procuring two times of our population would provide some safety net, so that if one of the vaccines is not working out, we would still have a vaccine enough for the people in Hong Kong," she said.

On top of this, Hong Kong has joined the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility that aims to buy and distribute Covid-19 vaccine to practically all countries around the globe.

Chan says the mass testing helped equip the government against a more severe outbreak

But until the vaccine is acquired, Chan said the government is pressing full steam ahead to prepare for another outbreak.

“We have to enhance our ability to cope with the disease because as I said, the next stage could be more serious than the third,” she said.

Such preparation includes maintaining cross-border restrictions, given that the global situation is deteriorating, according to her.

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She cited statistics showing that from 100,000 daily new cases in May, the figure rose to between 160,000 and 180,000 in June; then went up further to 220,000 in July.

Chan said the number of countries deemed high-risk could be extended, along with the strict pre-boarding requirements imposed on all travelers coming from these places.

Another step is to continue the targeted testing of people deemed vulnerable, including staff at care homes and restaurants, workers in wet markets and public transport, as well as those in “essential facilities” like slaughterhouses and the container terminal.

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While the tests will remain free and voluntary, the health chief said they “strongly encourage” those in the targeted sectors to take part.

Contract tracing is also being enhanced with the development of an IT platform that will make the current system more efficient. Along with this, more quarantine and isolation facilities will be built to meet any eventuality.

After the universal community testing, Chan said Hong Kong’s capacity to process tests has been ramped up, so that health facilities can now conduct up to 7,000 tests per day.

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