An infectious disease expert has warned that Hong Kong could see as many as 200 Covid-19 infections per day three weeks from now, saying the SAR has no choice but to impose stringent social distancing measures to curb the fourth wave of the epidemic.
Dr Leung Chi-chiu said on Sunday that there has already been "an exponential increase" in Covid-19 cases over the past three weeks. If the trend persists, he expects to see more than 1,000 new infections every week in mid-December.
"If you look at the data at the end of October… we only had three local cases per week. Now we have 70 local cases in the past one week. That means it has increased more than 20 times over a matter of three weeks,” Leung said.
“And it will, if we continue the current trend… increase another 20 times within the next two weeks. That means we will be seeing up to 1,400 cases after three weeks [per week and] more than 200 cases per day.”
He told RTHK's Violet Wong strict social distancing measures are urgently required to curb the spread.
“We need to stop our face-to-face school classes… ask civil servants to work at home [and] encourage the private sector to do so,” he said.
“All non-essential recreational facilities and exercise facilities may need to be closed, similar to what have been done in the third wave. We don’t have a choice, because we are facing what the government is describing [as] another wave which will be much more severe than our last wave.”
He said he saw little hope of the SAR getting on top of its coronavirus outbreak in time to launch quarantine-free travel with Singapore early next month.
The first flights in the "travel bubble" had been due to depart on Sunday, but the scheme was postponed at the eleventh hour on Saturday because of a surge in Covid-nineteen cases here. The two governments will discuss the matter again in a fortnight.
Dr Leung said he expected that the SAR's daily average number of unsourced cases for the past seven days would rise above five on Sunday, the level at which the bubble would be automatically suspended.
"It's very unlikely we would be able to bring the disease down completely, in a well-controlled state, within two weeks," Leung said. "We need to look at the situation."
"In fact, even if we did not suspend the travel bubble arrangement with Singapore yesterday, we would be forced to do so today," because the authorities are likely to announce a number of cases with unknown sources.
Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, of which 13 had no known source. Seven more were imported while 21 of the remaining 23 were linked to a cluster involving several dance studios.
The travel bubble would allow people who test negative for the coronavirus to travel between the two territories without having to undergo a 14-day quarantine at the other end.