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Hong Kong COVID-19 deaths exceed Wuhan 2020 as Omicron spreads in China

Daniel R. Lucey, MD, MPH, FIDSA
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Earlier this week, the Hong Kong Department of Health reported that:  

“as of 0.00am, March 14, a total of 4 066 deaths related to COVID-19 during the fifth wave (since December 31, 2021) was recorded, with 4 057 and nine deaths reported from the Hospital Authority and public mortuaries respectively. Hong Kong has so far recorded a total of 4 279 deaths related to COVID-19.”

The official (but likely undercounted) Wuhan death toll between December 2019 and April 17, 2020, totaled 3,869. The most recent average in Hong Kong is 284 deaths/day over the past 7 days. At this average, over the next 30 days, at least 8,000 additional deaths could be anticipated.

Hong Kong, however, is fighting back against the Omicron variant. Thus, the high numbers of infections, documented in part by rapid antigen test results, and the subsequent high numbers of deaths will eventually decrease. The March 14 Hong Kong Department of Health report also advised:

“With the higher transmissibility and risk of infection of the Omicron mutant strain, the CHP strongly appeals to the community to continue to comply with the social distancing measures, avoid going out and refrain from participating in unnecessary or crowded activities or gatherings (particularly religious or cross-family activities and gatherings).

The spokesman reminded that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe cases and deaths from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Also on March 14, the South China Morning Post reported infections in 27 of China’s 31 provinces and travel bans and lockdowns in Shanghai and Shenzhen, the port megacity across the border from Hong Kong that is crucial to trade and both national and international supply chains.

In the northeast capital of Jilin province, a lockdown has already been in place. Cases in other megacities such as Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing are also occurring. This trajectory of infections will continue to challenge China’s “zero-COVID” policy. If unchecked, a new variant of concern could develop if tens or hundreds of millions of people in China become infected.

How well the two main Chinese vaccines, Sinovac and Sinopharm, both made with older inactivated vaccine technology using the ancestral 2019 SARS-CoV-2 virus, protect against hospitalization and death will be revealed in the weeks and months ahead.


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