The Hong Kong authorities stated on Thursday that it had detected two instances of a brand new variant recognized in South Africa, which scientists have warned exhibits a “large leap in evolution” and will restrict the effectiveness of vaccines.
The infections have been detected in a person who had returned to Hong Kong from South Africa this month, and later in one other man staying throughout the corridor in the identical quarantine resort. (Hong Kong requires virtually all abroad arrivals to quarantine in resorts for 2 to three weeks.) The virus’s genetic sequence was equivalent in each males, suggesting airborne transmission, in keeping with town’s Middle for Well being Safety. Each males have been vaccinated.
Additional sequencing by the College of Hong Kong confirmed that the viruses belonged to the brand new variant from South Africa, officers stated, although they acknowledged that details about the variant’s public well being influence was “missing in the meanwhile.”
Some Hong Kong specialists have questioned the size and efficacy of Hong Kong’s quarantines, noting that officers have recorded a number of instances of residents in quarantine resorts apparently infecting individuals who have been staying in different rooms.
Within the case of the most recent variant infections, the federal government has blamed the primary man for not carrying a surgical masks when opening his resort room door, in addition to “unsatisfactory air movement” within the resort. As of Friday afternoon there had been no stories of infections in close by rooms.
The presence of the brand new variant might complicate efforts to reopen the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. For months, Hong Kong officers have stated that resuming quarantine-free journey between the Chinese language territory and the mainland — nearly the one locations on the planet nonetheless pursuing a containment technique that seeks full eradication of the virus — is their high precedence, although the technique has broken town’s fame as a worldwide finance hub.
Mainland officers have stated that Hong Kong just isn’t doing sufficient to manage the virus, although town has recorded simply two regionally transmitted instances within the final six months. The mainland has just lately confronted new home outbreaks; on Thursday, the Nationwide Well being Fee there reported 4 new native instances.
On Thursday night, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, John Lee, stated mainland officers had informed him earlier within the day that Hong Kong had “principally fulfilled” the situations to reopen the border. He stated particulars would nonetheless have to be labored out, together with the introduction of a mainland-style “well being code” app that has raised privateness issues.
Requested by a reporter whether or not the brand new variant would delay reopening with the mainland, Mr. Lee stated solely that the Hong Kong authorities would “be certain that ample analysis and monitoring are finished on this regard.”
“In fact, we should handle and management any new dangers,” he stated.