Death toll from an influenza outbreak in Hong Kong rose to 126, SIA reports with reference to AA.
More residents across the city began donning face masks -- reviving memories of the 2003 SARS crisis that claimed 299 lives.
Amanda Lau, a 32-year-old web developer, wore a white mask that covered her mouth and nose.
"It feels a bit like when SARS hit, so I am being extra careful," she told The Anadolu Agency on Friday, the mask slightly hindering conversation.
The outbreak claimed eight more lives Thursday, bringing the death toll since the start of the year to 126.
Eleven new cases were admitted to intensive care units the same day, with the total number of cases reaching 198, The Standard daily reported Friday, citing the Center for Health Protection.
Of the cases, 185 contracted the deadly H3N2 strain, which last winter cost the lives of 133 people -- half of those infected.
University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said Hong Kong was suffering from a shortage of flu vaccines this winter, and suggested that the city invest in its own pharmaceutical production -- particularly for an H3N2 vaccine.
"Hong Kong has no research development and manufacturing,” The Standard quoted him as saying. “When there is an outbreak of flu we discover that many factories do not have enough stock as many hospitals are asking for it, so we need to order from overseas, but those countries are also in need of the vaccine.”
Yuen added that Hong Kong had to "beg" other countries for vaccines every time it experienced a flu outbreak.
Earlier, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man had said the government would attempt to obtain more vaccines from countries in the southern hemisphere.
He expressed uncertainty about whether the government should encourage residents to wear face masks as it could lead to social isolation.
"Just like during SARS, people wouldn't make close contact or even shake hands," he said, according to the South China Morning Post.
But even as concern among the public rose, Yuen said the current outbreak should not be compared to the SARS outbreak since many healthy young people had died of SARS while most of the recent victims were elderly with chronic problems.
Earlier this week, Yuen had said as many as 600 people in the city might die as the current epidemic spreads.
Meanwhile Ho Pak-leung, microbiology professor at the University of Hong Kong, called on the government to help administer free vaccines to children under the age of six and urged all students to wear face masks at kindergartens and primary schools.
Leung Ting-hung, controller of the Centre of Health Protection, recommended however that people who were not in high-risk groups get vaccinated at private clinics, warning of a lack of sufficient manpower to offer vaccines to the young population across the city.
"I am worried, but my wife isn't," Billy Leung, a 41-year-old banker told AA. "I think you can never be too careful, so I've started wearing a mask."
The record for a flu outbreak in Hong Kong was in 2005 when an estimated 1,100
people died, according to the Ming Pao newspaper.