An article published by the U.S.-based, self-proclaimed research organization Brownstone Institute has made a few misleading claims about Hong Kong’s fifth wave of COVID-19, questioning the effectiveness of masks and vaccines using the city’s outbreak data as evidence.
The piece titled “Anatomy of the Hong Kong Disaster” was shared not only by the Institute’s social media accounts with thousands of followers but also by others. For example, it was tweeted on March 20 by Prashant Bhushan, an Indian public interest lawyer, who has over 2.2 million followers on Twitter.
The core of those claims were that despite a very high rate of mask use and vaccination, Hong Kong recorded among the highest number of confirmed cases and mortality rate in the world during the fifth wave — indicating that those measures did not work.
Hong Kong’s deadliest wave began at the end of 2021. During the course of four months and a half, the city of 7.4 million people experienced more than 9,000 COVID-19-related deaths and thousands of daily new cases on average during that time, according to the Hong Kong government.
Annie Lab investigated the claims made by the author Ian Miller in the article and found them misleading as Miller has largely misinterpreted the data without understanding the context.
- First misleading claim: Masks did not work as protection
- Second misleading claim: High vaccination rate did not protect Hong Kong from the fifth wave
- Third misleading claim: Vaccination is not effective for the elderly
- Fourth misleading claim: A vaccination rate of over 100% indicates unreliable data collection
Note on death rate: The Hong Kong government defines a COVID-19-related death as a deceased person whose first positive specimen was collected within 28 days of death. The underlying cause of death could have been unrelated to COVID-19. But not all deaths have been thoroughly investigated or accurately recorded during the fifth wave, as reported by local media.
Late last year, the Brownstone Institute also published an article questioning the efficacy of vaccination against COVID-19 with various claims but they have been debunked by a U.S. fact-checking organization Lead Stories.