U.S admits it raised Hong Kong’s Covid risk rating in error

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it mistakenly flagged Hong Kong as a growing risk for coronavirus when it raised its travel warnings for the city and Singapore earlier this week.

Hong Kong’s increase was done unintentionally, the agency said. The city’s status has returned to Level 1, indicating a low risk, on the CDC’s website, a spokesperson told Bloomberg News in an email. Singapore remains at a Level 3 after its risk rating was raised this week by the CDC amid the largest outbreak the Southeast Asian city-state has experienced since the pandemic began.

Anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated should avoid non-essential trips to Singapore given its “high level” of Covid-19, according to the agency. “All travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid variants,” the agency said when it increased its travel advice for Singapore by one notch to Level 3. The CDC’s highest travel health notice is Level 4.

The CDC’s decision to boost Hong Kong to Level 2 was immediately perplexing to many. The rating is given to locations with a “moderate level” of coronavirus. It includes a recommendation that non-essential travel to the area be avoided by anyone who is unvaccinated and has a higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

But while Singapore has reported almost daily caseloads of more than 1,000 since mid-September, Hong Kong has seen fewer than 10 cases almost every day since late August. There hasn’t been a locally-transmitted infection in Hong Kong since mid-August, data shows, and it has yet to experience an outbreak of the delta variant.

The US, by contrast, is in the midst of another Covid resurgence as its vaccination rollout stalls. The country added almost 117,966 cases on Monday, and saw more than 2,000 deaths from the virus.

The primary criteria for determining CDC travel health notices for destinations as large as Hong Kong and Singapore are the number of recent cases and the trajectory of new cases, according to the CDC’s website.

The threshold for Level 2, for example, is 50-99 new cases over the past 28 days for every 100,000 local residents. The Level 3 threshold is 100-500, the website said.

Testing data is also assessed, according to the CDC, but there’s room for less-explicit factors to play a role, too. “Additional information such as hospitalizations and imported case counts may be considered when inconsistencies or other concerns are reported,” the CDC site said. – Bloomberg

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