Three-year-old dies as Hong Kong's worst Covid-19 outbreak grows

People wait for their swab samples to be collected at a Covid-19 testing site in Hong Kong on Feb 15, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - A three-year-old girl is the latest fatality in Hong Kong's worsening coronavirus wave that has seen case numbers balloon and overwhelm the health system.

She died on Tuesday evening (Feb 15), the government said in a statement without disclosing if she had any pre-existing illnesses. A 100-year-old woman with chronic illness also died. They are the youngest and oldest residents to die in the current outbreak.

The toddler's death comes amid a global surge of young Covid-19 patients and raises concerns about the risk of severe illness, though such cases remain rare.

While the outbreak in Hong Kong is small by global standards, the elderly vaccination rate is low and officials only recently permitted inoculation for kids younger than 12.

Children as young as three were able to get the Sinovac Biotech vaccine from Tuesday, after the government lowered the age limit. Children between five and 11 can get the BioNTech shot from Wednesday.

The young girl tested positive and was transferred to an intensive care unit in critical condition on Sunday.

The fatality follows the recent death of a four-year-old boy who tested preliminary positive and whose case has been referred to the coroner.

Hong Kong is particularly vulnerable to Omicron due to its high density.

The variant is better at evading immunity acquired from vaccines and natural infection than earlier strains, allowing it to spread rapidly in communities, especially among susceptible individuals across all age groups.

There is no evidence that Omicron is targeting children more than other age groups as vaccination rates are higher in adults.

Children are less likely to develop serious symptoms because their immune system can respond to pathogens more swiftly.

That typically enables kids to successfully counter the infection before it has had a chance to spread to the lungs to cause pneumonia and the inflammatory cascade that can be life-threatening in seniors.

Hong Kong is set to announce at least 4,200 new infections on Wednesday, as well as more than 3,000 preliminary positive cases, local media reported, citing people they did not identify.

The city's testing capacity is strained and the total number of preliminary Covid-19 cases and patients waiting to be hospitalised reached about 12,000, local media reported on Wednesday, citing people they did not identify.

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