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COVID digest: Hong Kong mulls lockdown amid omicron wave

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Hong Kong, Mar 01: Hong Kong is reeling under a crushing wave of omicron infections, with hospital systems stretched thin and dead bodies piled up at hospitals as mortuaries are filled up to capacity, Tony Ling, president of Hong Kong Public Doctors' Association, said on Monday.

COVID digest: Hong Kong mulls lockdown amid omicron wave

Health Secretary Sophia Chan told Hong Kong Commercial Radio on Monday that authorities were "discussing" imposing a citywide lockdown when asked about it, which marks a U-turn from the government's previously held position to test people through March instead of locking down.

"From a public health perspective, to bring out the best effect of compulsory universal testing, we need to reduce people's movement to some extent," she added. People should stay at home and avoid going out as much as possible, Chan said.

Hong Kong reported 87 deaths on Monday, health authorities said. It is set to report a record daily high of 34,466 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, Chinese Central TV (CCTV) reported.

The city-state announced 83 deaths, along with 26,000 new infections, on Sunday alone. Before the omicron wave, Hong Kong had recorded just 2,000 cases since the pandemic began.

Here are the latest major developments from coronavirus from around the world:

Asia-Pacific

South Korea will lift temporarily lift a requirement for people to produce vaccine passes or negative COVID-19 tests, authorities announced Monday. The move should ease the strain on testing centers and direct resources toward fighting a surge in infections, Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said at a COVID-19 response meeting.

South Korea reported 139,626 new cases and 117 deaths as of midnight Sunday. Though case numbers have slightly dropped from a record high of 171,442 on Wednesday last week, the number of critical cases has risen.

New Zealand is ending a requirement for travelers visiting to isolate themselves for a week beginning Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.

The move initially applies to New Zealanders since tourists are not yet allowed to visit the country.

Ardern said she knew the move would be "welcome news" to those waiting to see their families. "We can't wait to see you," she added. Ardern said Monday her cabinet was considering opening the country to tourists before July.

Philippine capital Manila is set to go to the lowest COVID-19 alert level at the beginning of next week, a government official said Sunday.

This means most businesses, including restaurants, cafes, gyms and cinemas, can operate at full capacity. People would still have to wear masks indoors and outdoors.

Europe

Germany reported 62,349 new cases and 24 deaths on Monday, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country's public health agency. The numbers represent a drop from cases last week, when German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned people about easing coronavirus restrictions too soon.

The total number of COVID-19 cases stands at 14,745,107, and deaths at 122,702.

Americas

The United States Congress lifted a mask requirement ahead of Tuesday's State of the Union address, the Congressional physician's office said Sunday. The mask requirement, which had been in place for nearly two years, has now been lifted on the House floor, meaning that people may choose whether to wear wear masks or not.

US federal regulators last week eased indoor mask-wearing guidelines for much of the country, depending on whether counties were deemed low-, medium- or high-risk based on infection and hospitalization rates.

rm/rc (Reuters, AP)

Source: DW

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