Hong Kong has reported its first death suspected of being linked to the coronavirus since September, as it tightens controls to curb the spread of a surge in Omicron cases.
The 73-year-old man, who was chronically ill, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday where he was tested for the virus and preliminarily found to be positive. He required immediate resuscitation but died a few hours later, the Hospital Authority said in a statement on Tuesday.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
Under Hong Kong rules, further tests will be carried out before he is assessed COVID-19 positive, but if the virus is confirmed he will be the first known death from COVID-19 since September 13, bringing the death toll in the territory to 214.
Health authorities on Wednesday reported a record 625 new cases. Some 2,628 cases have been reported over the past two weeks.
Hong Kong has again tightened measures aimed at controlling the spread of the virus as an outbreak of the Omicron variant proves a major test of the COVID-zero strategy it has followed since the pandemic began.
Under the new rules, the territory’s 7.5 million people will soon have to start using an app to enter places like supermarkets and shopping centres, while dining in restaurants will be banned after 6pm, gatherings outside limited to two people, and events at home allowed for only two households.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who wants to get cases down in order to reopen the border with mainland China, has said the measures are necessary because too few people in Hong Kong are fully vaccinated. Among the elderly, the rate is just 50 percent, she said.
“When vaccination rates increase, when Omicron disappears and other things happen, then, of course, we will continue to revisit our strategy, but nothing will change our commitment to safeguard the lives and the safety of the people of Hong Kong,” Lam told a news conference on Tuesday.
In its statement, the hospital authority statement said the elderly man who died was among four patients who tested preliminarily positive for the coronavirus on admission to the Caritas Medical Centre and that contact tracing had been carried out.
“Twenty-three patients, who have stayed in the same cubicle with the four patients, are identified as close contacts and will be isolated for quarantine,” it said.
Two patients admitted to other hospitals also tested preliminary positive, the statement added.
Patients who shared their rooms are also now in isolation while the infected areas have been disinfected.