Before the city's Omicron surge began in late December 2021, its daily infections rarely reached double digits. With nearly 700,000 cases and 4,300 deaths in a matter of weeks, Hong Kong is now reporting the highest mortality rate per million anywhere in the world, with many elderly among the dead. Observers are pointing the finger at Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose government's "zero-COVID" policy is being stretched to its limits, with hospitals and morguesoverflowing and the economy under threat because of complacency.
Critics say local authorities didn't use the time available to them to drive up the city's vaccination rate. The government is currently moving to enforce social distancing as a last resort. Cases, growing by tens of thousands a day, have already spilled into mainland China. There has been an alarming outbreak in the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen, home to assembly plants run by iPhone manufacturer Foxxcon, among other production lines. Shenzhen's 12.6 million residents are in lockdown in one of several cities experiencing their worst spikes since the early days of the pandemic.