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How Hong Kong conquered Omicron but others won’t

OMICRON FLEW INTO Hong Kong on November 11 hiding in the nasal passages of a passenger from South Africa. The man was fully vaccinated and would have been allowed to roam freely, maskless, infecting hundreds with the new Covid-19 variant, had he travelled to other places.

But Hong Kong’s tough rules forced him to stay masked at all times, submit to app-based location check-ins, and follow strict procedures during a 21-day quarantine stay.

At some point after checking into the Regal Airport Hotel, he opened his room door wearing no mask or a mask with a one-way valve.

Omicron flew out of the hotel room, spent an unknown amount of time in the corridor, and then went into the room of the hotel guest opposite, a Canadian aged 62.

The first passenger tested positive for Covid-19 on November 15 and the second on November 20.

Hong Kong health specialists immediately realized that an unusual cross-corridor transmission had happened in the hotel.

Like mainland China, the city follows a go-fast-and-go-hard anti-Covid-19 policy. Medical staff moved the infected people and guests from three rooms on either side of them (so 12 additional people) into sterilized vehicles and transferred them to a stricter but more spartan quarantine camp at Penny’s Bay, an isolated part of Lantau Island.

The steps appear to have been successful – the Omicron virus appears to have died at Penny’s Bay and been prevented from spreading in the general population.

CONCERNS FOR OTHER PLACES

The worry is that many places in the rest of the world will be far more lax than Hong Kong.

For example, UK passport holders from the affected African countries are being allowed into Britain but will not be required to stay in quarantine accommodation unless they arrive after noon from tomorrow (Sunday).

The US won’t start until Monday.

In both countries, huge numbers of people don’t wear masks, and quarantine is at regular hotels, rather than government-run camps. A number of European nations also have populations resistant to mask-wearing, and strongly opposed to restrictions, and electronic contact tracking.

Furthermore, Covid disinformation is extremely easy to find in Western countries, but is rarer in some Asian nations.

FEW DEATHS

In statistical terms, Hong Kong has had the world’s most successful response to Covid-19. It has never had a full lockdown, yet its total Covid-19 death rate – 212 people over two years – is less than the number of deaths during normal flu seasons.


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