Are we observing the beginning of a fourth wave in Hong Kong?
October 14, 2020
Since the end of September, we have seen a gradual increase of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, which could indicate the beginning of our fourth wave of infections. The third wave which began in July caused more than 4,000 infections and was successfully brought under control by tighter social distancing measures implemented in the second half of July. The third wave declined through August, and the daily number of new cases eventually dropped to single digits by mid-September.
However, since September 28, the daily number of new local cases has increased gradually with the effective reproductive number now being higher than 1, indicating the potential for another epidemic in the local community. In addition, a number of the recent cases could not be linked epidemiologically to other known cases, meaning that parts of the transmission chain remain unobserved. As we learnt in March and again in July, when social distancing measures are relaxed there is potential for COVID-19 to spread in the community.
Experts are already discussing of the potential vulnerable groups that should be monitored during this fourth wave. Children are suspected of being potential silent spreaders, being infectious but showing no symptoms or only mild symptoms, hence making difficult to identify cases and isolate them. Among the elderly population, regular tests in elderly care homes could allow earlier detection of outbreaks and save lives. Finally, domestic helpers are also vulnerable and could be a source of between-household transmission in the community.
In addition to the risk that poses this potential fourth wave, we are entering the winter flu season. Therefore, it is even more important to follow social distancing measures, wear face masks and observe strict personal hand hygiene. Even though there has not been any influenza activity in Hong Kong in the past 6 months, there is always a risk that it could return to the community and spread, adding to the burden on our healthcare system.
Here are some news articles discussing this issue in English:
Here are some news articles discussing this issue in Chinese: