March 29 (UPI) — The parents of children in Hong Kong hospitalized with COVID-19 will now be allowed to visit and stay with their kids in pediatric wards of hospitals.
The change in policy came as a “fifth wave” of the Omicron variant struck China over the the past month and had devastating consequences.
Sara Ho, chief manager of the Hospital Authority, said Monday at a press briefing that once parents are made aware of the risks of visiting, arrangements will be made to grant them access.
Government data revealed that many toddlers were hospitalized during the recent outbreak. Until recently, only parents who also tested positive were allowed to remain in the same ward as their children.
According to data from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Hong Kong spiked in late February and early March.
In early March, there were nearly 900 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in Hong Kong, the highest level recorded anywhere in the world during the pandemic.
During the first week of the month, Hong Kong was experiencing an “unprecedented health crisis” of nearly 300,000 cases and 1,200 deaths after largely being immune from the outbreak.
Part of that surge in cases has been attributed to low vaccination rates among the elderly.
In an interview with The New Yorker that was published last week, Siddharth Sridhar, a physician and clinical virologist in the department of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said there has also been a strong resistance to get COVID-19 tests.
“Not surprisingly, a lot of people didn’t want to get tested,” he said. “Stigma is a real thing when it comes to COVID in Hong Kong. If you test positive, it’s terrifying. You get sent off to isolation. Your family is quarantined. If your kids test positive, there’s a separation issue. Even when you come back, you might find that employers aren’t too happy about what happened. Your neighbors tend to shun you.”