June 28, 2022

Medical employees from China arrive at Shenzhen Bay Port in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, on March 14.TYRONE SIU/Reuters

Hong Kong Chief Govt Carrie Lam has expressed her “care and concern” for the individuals of the neighbouring metropolis of Shenzhen, which is headed into lockdown amid a rising COVID-19 outbreak – one many residents blame her metropolis for.

With instances on the rise within the southern tech hub, authorities have ordered all 12.6 million residents to be examined for the virus this week. Public transportation has been suspended, together with eating in at eating places, and firms have ordered workers to earn a living from home.

Different components of China, together with Shanghai and Jilin province within the northeast, have additionally introduced new measures to counter a latest spike in instances, with the Chinese language mainland at the moment dealing with its worst outbreak since early 2020.

Many have pointed to Hong Kong – the place new instances have been working uncontrolled for weeks now – because the most certainly supply of an infection.

“Shenzhen is being dragged down by Hong Kong,” Jane Shu, a 28-year-old finance employee, advised The Globe and Mail Monday. “We by no means skilled such an outbreak for over two years.”

Liu Lifang, a restaurant proprietor in Shenzhen’s Luohu district, stated the lockdown would possible lower her enterprise by about 60 per cent.

“The management may be very strict,” she stated. “There aren’t any individuals on the streets and only a few automobiles.”

By comparability, although Hong Kong has carried out bodily distancing insurance policies for the reason that present outbreak started in late December, it has prevented lockdowns and lots of companies stay open. And whereas officers right here insist they’re following the identical “dynamic zero” playbook as mainland China, the fast motion taken in Shenzhen and elsewhere after a comparatively minuscule variety of instances has underlined how a lot Hong Kong has diverged from the remainder of the nation in its response.

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Shenzhen reported 75 new instances Monday, in contrast with 26,908 in Hong Kong, together with 286 deaths.

Hong Kong’s outbreak is at the moment the deadliest and most extreme on the planet. Researchers on the Chinese language College of Hong Kong have estimated that as many as 5 million individuals, 66 per cent of the inhabitants, will likely be contaminated by the point the present wave ebbs, with as many as 9,000 deaths.

Town’s authorities have confronted intense criticism for failing to arrange for an outbreak many specialists had warned was inevitable in some unspecified time in the future, even with the strict quarantine controls Hong Kong had carried out since 2020. Not solely had been vaccination charges not excessive sufficient, however Hong Kong didn’t have the capability to correctly apply the Chinese language pandemic technique, which depends on lockdowns and mass testing to rapidly detect and isolate instances as quickly as infections start spreading.

Requested why Shenzhen – a metropolis twice the dimensions – was capable of conduct mass testing simply days after an outbreak started, Ms. Lam stated Monday that such procedures have been in place on the mainland “for the previous two years and have been efficient.

“However whether or not they are often administered is dependent upon the system of the place involved and whether or not there are the sources,” she stated, including that Hong Kong was not capable of comply with that method.

David Owens, a household physician who has written extensively on Hong Kong’s COVID-19 response, stated China “has constructed this unimaginable structural capability” in all three areas mandatory for rapidly detecting and eliminating the virus: testing, contact tracing and isolating constructive instances.

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“Hong Kong by no means actually had that capability, it was all the time a extra brittle technique,” Dr. Owens stated. “We simply didn’t have the components mandatory for elimination, and this turned more and more apparent because the variants turned extra infectious.”

This didn’t cease Hong Kong officers from saying they’d comply with the Chinese language technique as instances rose in January and February, nevertheless. There have been quite a few studies {that a} lockdown – both full or district-by-district – was imminent, sparking panic shopping for and hoarding. Mass testing was presupposed to happen this month, seven weeks after every day instances exceeded what they at the moment are in Shenzhen, however the plans had been deserted because of the scale of the outbreak.

“As a result of we hadn’t acknowledged the bounds of our elimination technique, we’d executed one thing that was even worse,” stated Dr. Owens, which was cling to “zero COVID with no exit plan.”

Not like Singapore and New Zealand, which centered on maintaining an infection numbers low whereas they obtained their vaccination charges up, Hong Kong solely did the previous, setting the stage for a extra lethal outbreak.

On Monday Ms. Lam stated, “Now we have spent over one 12 months to advertise, encourage and coerce individuals to take the jab. However sadly … we’ve not achieved a excessive fee of vaccination, particularly amongst the aged.”

Simply 30 per cent of Hong Kongers 80 and older have obtained two vaccine doses. By comparability, nearly 95 per cent of New Zealand seniors are totally vaccinated.

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In February, Chinese language President Xi Jinping personally intervened to induce Hong Kong officers to “prioritize its activity to manage” the outbreak and “mobilize all sources to take action.” Officers blamed for mishandling outbreaks in different components of the nation have misplaced their jobs, and Mr. Xi’s feedback had been seen by many as a rebuke of Ms. Lam and her administration.

Ms. Lam’s time period expires this 12 months, and the worsening disaster in Hong Kong could increase extra questions on her future. And it’s not solely high leaders in Beijing who’re pissed off together with her administration, but additionally many bizarre Chinese language, who took to social media over the weekend to vent their frustration at Hong Kong for latest outbreaks across the nation.

“Hong Kong’s economic system is so developed, there isn’t any motive for such poor epidemic prevention,” stated Ms. Shu, the Shenzhen finance employee. She blamed travellers from Hong Kong for bringing the virus north, pointing to tales of smugglers serving to mainland residents within the metropolis cross the border illegally to keep away from quarantine.

Ms. Liu, the restaurant proprietor, stated she was additionally pissed off however sympathized with those that fled the rising outbreak.

“If I used to be in Hong Kong, I might additionally need to return to the mainland, as a result of it’s safer right here.”

Alexandra Li contributed to this report from Beijing.

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