The Hong Kong authorities mentioned on Thursday that it had detected two circumstances of a brand new variant recognized in South Africa, which scientists have warned reveals a “massive soar in evolution” and will restrict the effectiveness of vaccines.
The infections had 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 lodge. (Hong Kong requires virtually all abroad arrivals to quarantine in resorts for 2 to a few weeks.) The virus’s genetic sequence was an identical in each males, suggesting airborne transmission, in accordance with the town’s Middle for Well being Safety. Each males had been vaccinated.
Additional sequencing by the College of Hong Kong confirmed that the viruses belonged to the brand new variant from South Africa, officers mentioned, although they acknowledged that details about the variant’s public well being affect was “missing for the time being.”
Some Hong Kong consultants have questioned the size and efficacy of Hong Kong’s quarantines, noting that officers have recorded a number of circumstances of residents in quarantine resorts apparently infecting individuals who had been staying in different rooms.
Within the case of the newest variant infections, the federal government has blamed the primary man for not sporting a surgical masks when opening his lodge room door, in addition to “unsatisfactory air circulation” within the lodge. As of Friday afternoon there had been no studies of infections in close by rooms.
The presence of the brand new variant could complicate efforts to reopen the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. For months, Hong Kong officers have mentioned that resuming quarantine-free journey between the Chinese language territory and the mainland — just about the one locations on the earth nonetheless pursuing a containment technique that seeks full eradication of the virus — is their prime precedence, despite the fact that the technique has broken the town’s fame as a world finance hub.
Mainland officers have mentioned that Hong Kong is just not doing sufficient to regulate the virus, despite the fact that the town has recorded simply two domestically transmitted circumstances within the final six months. The mainland has lately confronted new home outbreaks; on Thursday, the Nationwide Well being Fee there reported 4 new native circumstances.
On Thursday night, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, John Lee, mentioned mainland officers had informed him earlier within the day that Hong Kong had “mainly fulfilled” the circumstances to reopen the border. He mentioned 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 mentioned solely that the Hong Kong authorities would “be certain that sufficient analysis and monitoring are carried out on this regard.”
“In fact, we should handle and management any new dangers,” he mentioned.