Hong Kong Covid nightmare: Baby dies as Chinese city hit by record number of cases

Coronavirus isolation rule changes criticised by Dr Nagpaul

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On February 21, Hong Kong recorded 7,533 new cases and 13 new deaths, a record high number of infections. Included in the death toll was a baby, as the city in China suffers a spike in both infections and deaths from the virus.

Reports from Hong Kong hold the 11-month-old baby girl was the city’s youngest fatality from the virus.

The girl was in good health, but her parents, eight-year-old brother and twin sister also tested positive for Covid in rapid tests.

The baby developed a fever and seizures on February 19 and was brought to the accident and emergency department of Tseung Kwan O Hospital.

She was intubated at the time, and transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The 11-month-old died at 6:59pm on Sunday, with her case then referred to the Coroner’s Court to investigate her cause of death.

Hong Kong news outlet The Standard said a three-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy also passed away from Covid earlier in February.

The Hospital Authority told the website a new scheme to transition some non-Covid patients in recovery and rehab to private hospitals will launch in two to three days, to spare beds in public hospitals to treat Covid and other patients suffering from urgent conditions including stroke and heart attack.

The Guardian has reported hospital beds are at 90 percent capacity because of a Hong Kong policy where every person testing positive for Covid was hospitalised regardless of symptoms

The Centre for Health Protection told The Standard it will investigate if there are cluster outbreaks in work locations, but there will be delays to tracing.

It has advised companies to sanitise offices or even suspend work following infections.

Carrie Lam, Chief Executive and Government leader, said Hong Kong “cannot surrender to the virus” and added containing the outbreak “is now of paramount importance”.

On Monday, February 14, she shared Hong Kong’s hospitals were overwhelmed, and announced plans to have construction crews from mainland China build isolation units with 10,000 beds.

The new isolation and treatment units will be built in the Penny’s Bay and Kai Tak districts.

She also announced on Friday elections due to take place in March were now postponed until May 8 as the administration’s focus now had to be on the fight against the pandemic.

Ms Lam then vowed “no mercy” for those breaching Covid social distancing rules, with a Government spokesperson saying in a statement: “The key to prevailing over the epidemic rests with every citizen’s effort and support.

“Members of the public, including the [domestic workers], should reduce unnecessary social contact to prevent escalation of the disease. Let’s fight the virus together.”

Dr David Owens, a founding partner of OT&P clinic, said that a ‘Zero Covid’ policy is no longer right for Hong Kong.

He told Channel News Asia “elimination was initially the best strategy for Hong Kong”, but added: “Once effective vaccinations became available, the negative framing and policy around zero-COVID adversely impacted vaccination rates, especially in the vulnerable.

“The messaging was not only unscientific, it paradoxically increased the risk to population health.”

Peter Collignon, professor of microbiology at the Australian National University, also told the outlet: “Zero-COVID can’t last forever.”

He said the strategy “can lead to poor resource allocation and priorities.”

It comes as the UK Government prepares to lift all remaining Covid restrictions, with Boris Johnson set to deliver a plan on how Britons will “live with Covid”.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister’s morning meeting with the cabinet before his Commons statement this afternoon was delayed because the PM needed to be briefed on other matters.

Mr Johnson will make a statement to the Commons at 4:30pm, and a press conference for the public is set for 7pm, where positive cases and their close contacts will no longer have to self-isolate by the end of this week.

The Prime Minister said: “Today will mark a moment of pride after one of the most difficult periods in our country’s history as we begin to learn to live with COVID.

“It would not be possible without the efforts of so many – the NHS who delivered the life-saving vaccine rollout at phenomenal speed, our world-leading scientists and experts, and the general public for their commitment to protecting themselves and their loved ones.

“The pandemic is not over but thanks to the incredible vaccine rollout we are now one step closer towards a return to normality and finally giving people back their freedoms while continuing to protect ourselves and others.”

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