Hong Kong eases Covid Zero, Chinese expert arrives: virus update

New Zealand is scrapping the requirement for vaccinated travelers to self-isolate upon arrival, while Metro Manila of the Philippines plans to move to the lowest alert level as infections remain low. Indonesia will soon no longer require international passengers in Bali to self-isolate upon arrival.

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Hong Kong moves away from Covid Zero (12:57 p.m. HK)

Patients with mild cases in the city are no longer sent to hospitals or isolation centers because there is no room; instead, they are being asked to stay home until they test negative with rapid antigen tests.

The close contacts, who are no longer being recorded by the city’s elaborate contact tracing process, are moving freely though they are technically supposed to be quarantined at home for at least a week. The app used to report locations with confirmed cases has suspended risk alerts.

This rapid erosion of fundamental Covid Zero practices shows the difficulty of maintaining an approach that seeks to eliminate the virus in the face of more infectious strains like omicron. Hong Kong recorded a record 26,026 new cases on Sunday and 83 deaths, making the outbreak far larger than any zero-tolerance approach China pioneered has ever been suppressed.

New Zealand eases entry restrictions (1:36 p.m. HK)

The country is scrapping the requirement for vaccinated travelers to self-isolate, a sign that the rapidly spreading omicron outbreak is making border restrictions unnecessary.

From midnight on March 2, vaccinated New Zealanders arriving from Australia will no longer need to serve a week of self-isolation and will only have to return two negative rapid antigen tests. The government has also brought forward the date from which New Zealanders from other countries can return home, to midnight on March 4 from March 13.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also indicated she will accelerate the gradual reopening of the border, potentially allowing tourists from anywhere in the world to return much sooner than the current October start date.

New Chinese Clusters (9:29 HK)

Guangdong province in southern China is trying to contain a new cluster out of its main manufacturing hub, Dongguan, which is home to factories producing electronics, toys and clothes. Some 50 infections have been discovered since the end of last week, most of them in the city’s densely populated industrial park.

Meanwhile, the coastal city of Tianjin is also clearing infections from the city’s airport, causing hundreds of flights to be canceled. Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, is seeing its local outbreak worsen, as daily cases rose to 30 on Monday. In total, China reported 140 new cases on Monday.

Huanan Market Under Close Origins Research Review (8:26 a.m. HK)

Researchers tracing the emergence of Covid-19 say they have found more evidence implicating the now infamous Huanan Seafood Market in China’s central city of Wuhan. Spatial analyzes of early cases point to the sprawling market as the epicenter of the outbreak’s emergence, according to research published ahead of peer review and publication.

A separate paper found that SARS-CoV-2 likely spread from animals twice, spawning distinct lineages that spread from the marketplace in late November 2019. A third paper by Chinese government scientists provides ” convincing evidence” of the prevalence of SARS. -CoV-2 in the market at the start of the outbreak, where 10 stalls sold a menagerie of live “domesticated wild animals”, including deer, badgers, rabbits, bamboo rats, porcupines, hedgehogs, salamanders and crocodiles.

China sends team to Hong Kong for testing assistance (7:36 a.m. HK)

China is preparing to send a team of about 9,000 people at any time to help with Hong Kong’s mandatory testing, Sing Tao Daily reported, citing an official from China’s National Health Commission.

Test samples, if needed, can also be sent to Guangdong which can process 1.2 million to 1.5 million tests per day, well above Hong Kong’s daily capacity of 300,000, according to the report. , which quotes Li Dachuan, the commission’s deputy director. from the office of medical administration.

Hong Kong has not ruled out a lockdown during mandatory citywide Covid testing, Commercial Radio Hong Kong reported, citing Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan.

Top China Covid Expert in Hong Kong (7:26 a.m. HK)

The official, Liang Wannian, will advise the city in its fight against the virus, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people. Hong Kong authorities warn that cases have yet to peak.

The visit is a sign that China is treating the situation in Hong Kong as dire and requires high-level guidance, the newspaper reported, adding that Hong Kong’s first makeshift mobile hospitals will start operating on Monday.

NY Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate in Schools (4:49 p.m. NY)

New York will lift the state’s indoor mask mandate in schools on March 2 due to lower infections and hospitalizations statewide and less stringent guidelines from U.S. health officials, the governor announced. Kathy Hochul at a Sunday press briefing in Albany.

Hochul added that individual counties will still be able to impose their own mask rules, and parents can decide if their child is safe to go to school without a mask. She said about a third of the state continues to have above low to medium risk as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arrivals without quarantine in Bali (7:26 a.m. NY)

Indonesia will no longer require international passengers in Bali to self-isolate upon arrival under a trial program starting in March, with plans to lift all quarantine requirements by April.

Arriving passengers will still be required to take a PCR test and remain inside their pre-booked accommodation while awaiting the result, according to a briefing on Sunday.

New Record Cases in Hong Kong (4:56 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong has reported a record 26,026 new Covid-19 cases as the city struggles to contain its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.

Only seven of the infections were imported cases, health officials said at a press briefing on Sunday. There were 83 new deaths, including 67 in care homes.

Manila area to move to lowest alert (4:45 p.m. HK)

The Philippines will further ease movement restrictions and remove capacity limits on most businesses in the capital region as daily coronavirus infections remain low.

Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of economic output, will move to the lowest alert level from March 1 to 15, according to a statement on Sunday. Under Alert Level 1, businesses, including restaurants and gyms, can operate at full capacity.

Hong Kong Rental Support Calls (2:15 PM HK)

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Finance Secretary Paul Chan have renewed calls urging property developers to offer rental assistance to tenants affected by the pandemic.

Lam urged landlords to waive rent, RTHK reported, citing a social media post. Lam said the government’s pandemic fund cannot compensate for losses suffered by a wide range of businesses that have been affected by the mandatory closures in place until at least April 20, the outlet reported.

Hong Kong Trackers (1:45 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong plans to use more than 100,000 electronic bracelets to monitor Covid-19 patients self-isolating at home, according to local media, which quoted the technology minister. The wristbands, which would be paired with a tracking app, will be given to patients who are in home isolation pending admission to hospitals.

The city is battling a rise in Omicron cases, reporting a record 17,063 Covid cases on Saturday.

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