Covid has overtaken nursing homes in Hong Kong.

HONG KONG – In two years, the city has largely avoided a major coronavirus outbreak, thanks to tight border controls and strict social distancing measures. Then, Omicron caused an explosion of infections, showing that the city was not preparing its older – and most at-risk – residents for the worst.

In just a few weeks, the outbreak quickly overwhelmed Hong Kong’s world-class healthcare system. Ambulances arrive at emergency units in batches. Hospitals that run out of beds are in isolation wards. Patients wait on sidewalks and in parking lots, given emergency blankets to keep warm during the coldest and wettest time of the year.

Hong Kong’s initial success in containing the pandemic was the starting point of complacency that now has deadly consequences. Officials have moved too slowly to prepare for a broader outbreak and have done too little to address misinformation about vaccines, social workers and experts say. For many of the city’s one million residents aged 70 and over, the risk of contracting the disease has long seemed so low that they avoid vaccination.

Before the current outbreak, less than half of people in that age group had been vaccinated. Among residents of care homes, the rate is even lower, at just 20 percent, according to the Hong Kong Council of Social Services. Now they are bearing the burden of the city worst outbreak. More than 200 people have died this month from Covid, many of them over 70 years old and unvaccinated. Covid has overtaken nursing homes in Hong Kong.

Fry Electronics Team

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