Hong Kong has worsening outbreak

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned on Saturday that Covid-19 infections could be growing exponentially in a congested residential area of ​​the city and that general cases have also spread due to an outbreak in pet hamsters.

Chief Executive Lam urged the people of Hong Kong to avoid gatherings ahead of next week’s Lunar New Year as authorities deal with an outbreak of the omicron variant in Kwai Chung, north of the Kowloon Peninsula.

“We are concerned that the exponential growth in cases that we have seen in other parts of the world is now happening in Kwai Chung,” Lam said.

The situation is testing Hong Kong’s “zero covid” strategy focused on eliminating the disease, with schools and gyms already closed, restaurants closing at 6pm and air travel with many key hubs cut off or severely disrupted.

Speaking after meetings with health officials, Lam said there was only a “small chance” that city-wide restrictions would be lifted on February 4 as planned.

She said a second apartment block in Kwai Chung, which houses more than 2,000 people, would be closed for five days. On Friday, authorities closed a first building in the region for five days after more than 20 cases were linked to it.

On Tuesday, authorities ordered the death of about 2,000 hamsters from dozens of pet stores after tracking a coronavirus outbreak in a worker at a store, where 11 hamsters tested positive for Covid-19.

Lam said cases involving the Delta variant are also on the rise because of the hamster outbreak.

“I understand that pet owners are dissatisfied … the greatest public interest is in getting the pandemic under control,” Lam said.

Thousands of people have offered to adopt unwanted hamsters amid public protests against the government and its pandemic advisers.

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