Local experts expect Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 to become mainstream viruses, govt urged to reduce 7-day hotel quarantine to 3 days plus home quarantine

Dr.Ivan Hung

4th July 2022 – (Hong Kong) The COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong has rebounded, and the number of mutant virus cases has increased.

Dr. Ivan Hung, co-convener of Expert Committee on Clinical Events Assessment  said during a radio program today (4th) that he believes that the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 mutant viruses will become the mainstream viruses in Hong Kong but he is not so concerned.

According to the 5th wave of epidemic data, more than 4 million people were infected with Omicron BA.2 virus. Many analysis and data pointed out that the recovered patients have sufficient immunity to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. In addition, the vaccination rate in Hong Kong is high hence there is a herd immunity.

Hung pointed out that even if citizens are infected for the second time, it is believed that it will not cause a major outbreak, because after the second infection, the symptoms will be mild or some patients even have no symptoms, and there should be very few cases of severe illness or death, even in residential care homes for the elderly.

However, he reminded that the elderly may induce long-term illness and make the condition more serious. In addition, the mainland Sinopharm Group cooperated with the University of Hong Kong to launch the clinical trial of the second-generation COVID-19 inactivated vaccine. Kong pointed out that the overall progress is good, and it is hoped that the vaccination trial will be completed before the end of August.

In the middle or end of September, preliminary analysis and data will be available. If all goes well and the vaccine is safe and effective, he hopes to apply for emergency registration in Hong Kong in November, and citizens can be vaccinated in December.

Ho Pak-leung, head of the Centre for Infection and Infectious Diseases of the University of Hong Kong, also said in another TV program that the Omicron BA.5 virus is gradually becoming the mainstream variant in the world, and it is expected that the number of related cases will increase significantly in the next few weeks, replacing BA.2. Symptomatic cases will further increase. He believes that if the circulating virus strains in the world are the same as those in Hong Kong, the severity of the symptoms of imported cases will be low since the vaccination rate of high-risk people in Hong Kong is high. Hence, there is room to adjust the arrangement of the 7-day hotel quarantine for inbound arrivals. He thus suggested the measure be relaxed to 3-day hotel quarantine and 4 days of home quarantine.