Hong Kong Records Two Cases of Variant Detected in South Africa

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The Hong Kong authorities stated on Thursday that it had detected two circumstances of a brand new variant recognized in South Africa, which scientists have warned reveals a “big jump 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 lodge. (Hong Kong requires nearly all abroad arrivals to quarantine in accommodations for 2 to three weeks.) The virus’s genetic sequence was an identical in each males, suggesting airborne transmission, in response to the town’s Center for Health Protection. Both males have been vaccinated.

Further sequencing by the University 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 impression was “lacking at the moment.”

Some Hong Kong specialists have questioned the size and efficacy of Hong Kong’s quarantines, noting that officers have recorded a number of circumstances of residents in quarantine accommodations apparently infecting individuals who have been staying in different rooms.

In 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 flow” in the lodge. As of Friday afternoon there had been no studies 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 territory and the mainland — just about the one locations in the world nonetheless pursuing a containment strategy that seeks full eradication of the virus — is their prime precedence, although the technique has damaged the city’s reputation as a worldwide finance hub.

Mainland officers have stated that Hong Kong just isn’t doing sufficient to manage the virus, although the town has recorded simply two regionally transmitted circumstances in the final six months. The mainland has not too long ago confronted new home outbreaks; on Thursday, the National Health Commission there reported 4 new native circumstances.

On Thursday night, Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, John Lee, said mainland officers had instructed him earlier in the day that Hong Kong had “basically 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 “health code” app that has raised privacy concerns.

Asked by a reporter whether or not the brand new variant would delay reopening with the mainland, Mr. Lee said solely that the Hong Kong authorities would “ensure that adequate research and tracking are done in this regard.”

“Of course, we must manage and control any new risks,” he stated.

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