Queue outside a community testing centre
Hong Kong registered another record number day of new coronavirus cases today. I know I'm repeating myself again but I still feel obliged to point it out all the same: this particularly since the numbers have gotten so high so fast that they're almost hard to believe.
For the record: Hong Kong saw 26,026 new Covid cases today (of which only six were imported). Remember those days not so long ago of not only zero new cases but also when the number of imported cases would far exceed local ones? They can seem like but a dream now, and these days of new daily case numbers that are have reached five figures like a sad nightmare.
Similarly, it wasn't all that long ago too when the only people I personally knew who had Covid were those who lived abroad. To date, the United States of America is the country where I've had the most friends come down with Covid (including one who told me that she lost her sense of taste and smell for three months!). Other territories where I know people who caught Covid include Malaysia (one of whom ended up dying from it) and France (involving a family of three, whose young unvaccinated son suffered more from being infected than his "boosted" parents).
Yesterday afternoon, a friend living here in Hong Kong messaged me to say that she had come down with a fever and suspected that she been infected by the coronavirus. And after she took a rapid antigen test (RAT) (kits of which are the latest "must have" in town), the results were indeed positive.
Earlier today, she messaged again to tell me that her fever had broke but that she was feeling on the tired side. I hope that fever and fatigue will be the extent of her symptoms. And the chances that this will be so is helped by her being double (though not triple) vaxxed with the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, not being elderly in age and not having any serious pre-existing medical conditions.
Spare a thought though for those who are not, and have succumbed to the coronavirus -- whose numbers have dramatically increased in recent days and weeks too along with that of new cases. For the record: Hong Kong reported 83 new deaths today alone; bringing the total number of confirmed Covid deaths in Hong Kong up to 717.
Something that is most definitely worth highlighting: Hong Kong now has a 7-day average daily Covid deaths per 1 million population number of 8.15: higher than the USA's 5.23 and the United Kingdom's 1.80 as well as Japan's 1.85 and Singapore's 1.36. And it's easy to explain why. Specifically, Hong Kong has a criminally low vaccination rate among the elderly; with less than 50% of all seniors aged 70 years and above having been vaccinated, and the percentage dropping to less than 30% if we were to look at seniors age 80 and above (despite 70% of the eligible population having been fully vaccinated).
As Oiwan Lam noted a week ago, "Unlike... western countries which mobilized and prioritized the elderly to be vaccinated, Hong Kong has taken a coercive approach on the city’s working force and students to boost the vaccination rates. Even after the Omicron outbreak, only around 40 percent of those aged above 80-year-old had received at least one dose." In addition:"We all know that the elderly are the most vulnerable group in Hong Kong but their vaccination rate has remained low and the majority of them have chosen Sinovac rather than BioNTech. This is due to the failure in public communication and proactive policy targeting at vulnerable groups."
I don't think it can be emphasized how big an advantage the vaccinated have vis a vis the unvaccinated with regards to their bodies being able to deal with the coronavirus. As evidence: data released today on the first 284 Covid related deaths in Hong Kong's fifth wave showed that 91% of them had not been fully vaccinated (meaning that they had not been vaccinated at all or just received one jab rather than the two or even three that some of us have had).
Then there's the issue of one of the vaccines offered here in Hong Kong, Sinovac, being shown to be far less effective than the other (BioNTech-Pfizer). A University of Hong Kong study has shown that "after receiving a booster, the effectiveness of three doses of the BioNTech vaccine may be as high as 89 per cent, declining to 86 per cent after three months and 77 per cent after six months, whereas three doses of Sinovac may only be 36 per cent effective, falling drastically to 19 per cent after three months, and standing at a mere 8 per cent after six months".
With this kind of information it hand, the continued offering of Sinovac vaccines in Hong Kong can only be seen as a political decision rather than a sound medical one. And, actually, it's pretty clear that much, if not all, of Hong Kong's pandemic response has been informed far more by politics than science.
The fifth wave has laid bare why doing so is so wrong. It's not just the shocking case numbers and rising fatalities. It's also such as the misery that has been heaped on Hong Kongers by way of such as multiple "ambush lockdowns" (notably the multi-day ones over at Kwai Chung that caused at least one death), crazy long lines of people taking part in mandatory testing and quarantine stays at Penny's Bay that have resulted in suicide attempts. The latest heart-breaking horror, reported today, involves morgues that are near capacity. What next? I shudder to think. Truly. :(