HONG KONG’S new coronavirus outbreak is set to surpass the magnitude of its previous wave of infections on Friday, in a cautionary tale that the worst may be yet to come in the pandemic.
The resurgence in the Asian financial hub has swelled the cases to over 300 in less than two weeks, a more aggressive pace than its previous wave in March and April when infections reached that magnitude only after a month.
Over a third of infections are also of unknown origins, signalling that hidden chains of transmission are widespread.
The current outbreak is only a few cases short of the previous wave’s size and is all but guaranteed to eclipse it when officials release the daily tally on Friday afternoon. This will make the former British colony one of the first in the region to see a new wave dwarf previous outbreaks.
A similar scenario is building in Japan and Australia, reflecting the challenge of containing the pathogen even in places that were widely lauded and emulated for their containment strategies.
The new waves are a sobering reminder to other regions further behind on the pandemic timeline, like Europe, on challenges to come.
Tokyo marked a single-day high of 286 infections on Thursday, and Friday’s tally will be similar, said Governor Yuriko Koike. On Friday, Australia’s Victoria state, the epicentre of its second wave, reported 428 new cases – the single biggest spike for the second consecutive day.
However, the size of the new waves in the region may reflect more testing and earlier detection of cases, and officials are hopeful of minimising economic and social suffering with better management strategies.
Doctors now know better how to treat Covid-19, limiting the number of cases that deteriorate to intensive care or death. The health-care systems in cities grappling with new outbreaks are not being overwhelmed, unlike in the worst-hit places like New York State and Italy during the first wave.
Still, without an effective and widely-distributed vaccine, cities are likely to continue in a state of limbo in which easing of social distancing will lead to a spike of infection. The virus’s ability to spread silently for weeks is still not fully understood by scientists, some of whom suspect that it can linger in the air for hours. – Bloomberg