Hong Kong’s actual Covid count could be up to 200,000 daily

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New Delhi, Jan 2 (IANS) Up to 200,000 people may be getting infected with Covid-19 in Hong Kong each day, researchers have found, but experts say while the estimate may be far higher than official figures, the risks will still be manageable when the city’s border with mainland China reopens, according to a media report.

Hong Kong on Monday reported 20,230 new infections, 367 of which were imported, as well as 74 related deaths, while hospitals were treating more than 5,000 infected patients, including over 400 severe or critical cases, the South China Morning Post reported.

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have been testing 10,000 residents a day, and based on the infection rates estimated about 150,000 to 200,000 Hongkongers were catching Covid-19 daily, according to Professor Jin Dongyan, a virologist. The figure far outstripped the number of imported cases that could be expected once travel with the mainland resumed, SCMP reported.

“After such a long time, Covid-19 has become endemic. When dealing with imported cases from the mainland, Hong Kong has a certain buffer level. It is not a given that mainland travellers will cause a surge in cases,” Jin said.

“The number of infections will not increase to a large extent… There will be risks, but a low-level one that Hong Kong can afford.”

Airfinity, which provides global health intelligence and analytics, is forecasting Covid-19 infections to reach their first peak in China on January 13 with 3.7 million cases a day.

Deaths are estimated to peak 10 days later at approximately 25,000 a day, by that stage a total of 584,000 since the virus began surging across the country in December.

“We predict 1.7 million deaths across China by the end of April 2023,” the forecasting firm said.

Airfinity’s model is based on data from China’s regional provinces, before changes to reporting infections were implemented, combined with case growth rates from other former Covid-zero countries when they lifted restrictions such as Hong Kong and Japan.

Using the trends in regional data, Airfinity’s team of epidemiologists has forecast the first peak to be in regions where cases are currently rising and a second peak driven by later surges in other Chinese provinces.

Airfinity predicts cases in Beijing are likely to have peaked by now, with hospitalisations and deaths likely to peak in the next 1-2 weeks.

Airfinity’s model estimates a second peak will occur on March 3, when daily cases are likely to reach 4.2 million. It is expected that the rural areas will be more impacted in this later wave.

China is predicted to see two peaks in cases as Covid-19 spreads throughout the country, the first peak in mid-January and the second in early March.

–IANS

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