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Hong Kong could be on the brink of a devastating fourth wave of coronavirus cases, health experts have warned.
During the three waves Hong Kong has suffered so far, more than 120 people were infected in the first round which began in January, over 640 people in the second which started in March, and seven deaths were recorded during the first two waves.
Then in July the city was hit once again with total infections standing at 5,113 and total deaths at 105, as of Sunday.
Now experts have warned easing restrictions that have been in place to curb the spread of the deadly virus could lead to a new fourth wave hitting.
Professor Benjamin Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong's (HKU) school of public health, says he is worried that the recent easing of restrictions, allowing the reopening of venues such as bars, cinemas and karaoke lounges, could trigger the next spike in infections any day now.
“What we have learned from the last nine months of Covid-19 is that when we have infections locally and we are not doing much social distancing, numbers will tend to go up from week to week,” he told the South China Morning Post.
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David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, also warned about a looming new outbreak as more people started going out and socialising, according to Xinhua.
Other experts fear that the easing of border restrictions could lead to importing the virus once again, which in turn could lead to a "very large" outbreak of the disease.
Senior officials recently revealed they are in talks with 11 countries, including Japan, France and Germany, to explore establishing travel corridors which could see an increase in people arriving in the city.
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Professor Gabriel Leung, dean of HKU’s faculty of medicine, said: “If there are more imported cases that slip through the net, and the local transmission chains begin to coalesce, the scale of the outbreak can be very large indeed.”
Hong Kong’s government has reserved billions in funding to hold enough vaccines for double the population of the city.
The government has set aside HK$8.4 billion (£837 million) to place the massive order for Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people.
But health minister Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee has already warned a “fourth wave” of cases over the winter could be the worst seen yet.
She said: “The measures will not eradicate the virus without the vaccine but will avoid major outbreaks in the community.”
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