Hong Kong has turned into a ghost city as inhabitants have been forced to stay home as the Covid-19 Omicron variant runs rampant, overloading the healthcare system.
Photos put up by Hong Kong Free Press on Feb. 22 showed the streets empty and deserted, with few out and about.
The images are dreary to look at as the entire population of nearly 7.5 million people in Hong Kong are kept indoors in a territory known for its hustle and bustle city life and acknowledged to have some of the most densely populated districts on Earth.
Cases set to soar in Hong Kong
Nearly 7.5 million people in Hong Kong will have to undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing in March, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive announced, The Guardian reported.
The territory’s testing capacity would be boosted to 1 million a day or more.
“Since we have a population of some 7 million people, testing will take about seven days,” she said.
Since Feb. 15, Hong Kong has reported about 5,000 new daily infections, with the Omicron cases threatening to overwhelm its healthcare system.
It is now about 7,000 cases a day.
The current surge of cases began at the start of 2022 with a handful of cases that then exploded overnight.
The financial hub has recorded 60,363 cases and 311 deaths.
Medical experts from Hong Kong University predicted new infections could peak at 180,000 a day in March.
Social restrictions expected to be tightened
Bloomberg reported that mainland China officials said their experience shows a lockdown will be more effective at containing virus cases in a shorter period of time.
But no sources for this information was quoted as the people asked not to be identified given that the talks are confidential.
In the latest development, Hong Kong is expected to tighten Covid-19 social-distancing rules further as it prepares to launch a so-called vaccine pass on Feb. 24 to limit entry to venues based on inoculation status, South China Morning Post reported.
“We urge every member of the public to contribute to the fight against the epidemic, including reducing unnecessary social contact, and working from home if possible... But if you must go out, to a mall for example, bring the vaccine pass and avoid crowded places,” deputy food and health secretary Kevin Choi said, according to SCMP.
Hong Kong has largely aligned itself with mainland China’s Covid Zero policy, which aims to totally stamp out outbreaks.
This is in stark contrast to many other countries that are living with the virus and treating it as endemic.
Many in Hong Kong are also sceptical about a mainland-style mass lockdown.
Lam said no such measure was being considered in Hong Kong because it was “not realistic”.
However, Beijing sees its Covid Zero strategy as an ideological counterpoint to the U.S., which has the world’s highest pandemic death toll.
President Xi Jinping has ordered Hong Kong to contain the outbreak using “all necessary measures.
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