The next outbreak?

ILI Consultation rate (adopted from Flu Express of CHP)

Many people in Hong Kong are wondering when to expect the next outbreak of COVID-19. Owing to limited scientific data, we can only rely on what we already have to make realistic estimation. One of the approaches is to refer to the trends of seasonal influenza in Hong Kong. According to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP), as in September 2020, we can obtain the data of confirmed influenza cases in Hong Kong (refer to the graph below). It is observed that since 2016, the peak of seasonal flu in winter was somewhat between January and May (more apparent from January to March); whereas, the seasonal flu in summer peaked somewhat between June and August (more apparent in July). It is also noteworthy that in some years, such as 2018 and 2020, there was no summer season; while in 2016, there was a peak in Autumn instead.

Percentage positive influenza cases (adopted from Flu Express of CHP)

With reference to the statistics of COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong (the graph below), major outbreaks occurred in March/April and July/August 2020, which looked quite consistent to the trends of seasonal flu. By reverse thinking, we can hypothesize some quiet seasons to be between May and June and also from September to December. Let us continue to see how things are going as SARS-CoV-2 and influenza are different viruses (for example, although there was no outbreak of influenza in the summer of 2020, we encountered the third outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong).

Personally, I humbly believe the first critical time could be the next January right after the Christmas and New Year holiday. It is also the beginning of Term 2 of 2020/21 Academic Year.

Number of active COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong since 22 January 2020 (Adopted from Wikipedia)

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