Across Asia, spike in virus cases follows Lunar New Year

Singapore: Many Asian countries are facing a spike in COVID-19 infections after the widely-celebrated Lunar New Year holidays, as health officials grapple with the highly-transmissible Omicron variant and expectations that numbers will continue to rise in coming weeks.

The Lunar New Year, which is China's biggest holiday, was celebrated across Asia on Feb. 1 even as pandemic restrictions in many countries kept crowds and family outings to a minimum.

Hong Kong's authorities are confronting record cases that are straining its so-called zero-COVID policy. The city has reported more than 300 local infections two days in a row, the highest since the pandemic began. Authorities require all cases to be hospitalised.

Hong Kong has aligned itself with China's zero-COVID policy that aims to totally stamp out outbreaks, even as many other countries change their approach to living with the virus. Authorities look to impose lock downs on residential buildings wherever clusters of infections are identified, and have banned public dining after 6 p.m.

In Singapore, a dramatic rise in Coronavirus infections followed last week's holiday, with cases tripling to 13,000 on Friday. Daily infections have since dipped to 7,752 on Sunday, amid restrictions that include limiting dining-in at restaurants to groups of five and capping the number of unique visitors to each household. Singapore has reported over 100,000 cases spanning the last month, although over 99% of the cases are mild or asymptomatic.

Across Asia, authorities are confronting a similar pattern as the more easily transmissible Omicron becomes dominant in many countries.

Experts say Omicron also more readily infects those who have been vaccinated or previously infected with COVID-19.

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