Hong Kong’s COVID infections exceed 1 million amid outbreak

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s cumulative coronavirus infections have exceeded 1 million as the city grapples with a widespread outbreak that has killed more people than the reported COVID-19 deaths in all of mainland China.

Health officials reported 20,079 confirmed infections on Friday, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 1,016,944.

Nearly 97% of those came from Hong Kong’s current wave, which began in December. Since Feb. 9, nearly 5,200 people have died from the virus.

The total number of deaths in Hong Kong — 5,401 — has exceeded the 4,636 fatalities recorded in mainland China. Mainland authorities have reported 126,234 confirmed cases, but unlike most countries, China does not include asymptomatic cases in its confirmed total.

The city of 7.4 million is in the grip of an omicron surge that has strained its health care system as hospitals reached maximum capacity. The supply of coffins is running low and the mortuaries have become so full, that they must temporarily store bodies in refrigerators.

Most of those who died were older patients and not all of them had been fully immunized.

Hong Kong managed to stop earlier pandemics by imposing strict “zero COVID,” restrictions. These restricted entry meant that businesses were closed, public gatherings were limited, and there was an imposition of lengthy quarantines on arrivals. There was also a ban on flights from high-risk countries. This changed when the highly transmissible Omicron variant was introduced. Officials sought help from China to combat the pandemic. The country sent medical personnel and experts.

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