Health experts have said social distancing and increased awareness resulting from the coronavirus pandemic helped end Hong Kong's winter influenza season nine weeks earlier than last year.
The number of flu-related deaths in the city fell from 356 in 2019 to 113 people this year, while intensive care unit admissions dropped from 601 to 182.
Epidemiologists said the city had been able to avoid the double whammy of influenza and the coronavirus outbreak largely because of social distancing measures and heightened vigilance caused by the pandemic.
By Thursday afternoon, the city reported 453 Covid-19 cases, including four fatalities.
The Centre for Health Protection said Hong Kong's annual flu season lasted only about five weeks this year " from January 5 to February 8.
That was shorter than the 14 weeks recorded last year, between December 30, 2018, and April 6, 2019.
Infectious disease expert Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan said class suspensions in kindergartens, schools, and universities, in force since the Lunar New Year holiday ended on February 3, as well as work-from-home arrangements and cancellation of large-scale public events, had played a big role in curbing the spread of the flu.
"Seasonal influenza was earlier proved to spread quickly among schoolchildren," he said.
Better personal and environmental hygiene practices, such as wearing masks and using hand sanitizers, also helped.
"The coronavirus outbreak has seen a lot of collateral damage, but this is a collateral benefit," Tsang said.
Another factor, according to him, that helped bring a swift end to the winter flu was an expansion of the vaccination program among people, with more than 1.3 million doses administered by the government this year " an increase of 17% compared to the year before.
Dr Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association's advisory committee on communicable diseases, said travel restrictions had also helped lower imported infections.
But he said the city still needed to guard against a potential resurgence of seasonal influenza since there was low herd immunity in the community as fewer people had been infected with that strain of the virus.
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