Soaring cases overwhelm Hong Kong’s health system

Beijing is to help boost quarantine capacity and provide test kits, as the territory faces food shortages as transport drivers from China test positive

Hong Kong reported 1,347 new daily COVID-19 infections yesterday, down from the previous day’s record, but the spread, with 2,000 additional suspected cases, threatens the territory’s overwhelmed health system, authorities said.

The spike in COVID-19 cases, the biggest test to date for Hong Kong’s ‘dynamic zero-COVID’ strategy, comes a day after the government said China would help with testing, treatment capacity and quarantine.

Authorities have warned that the food supply in Hong Kong could be disrupted, after some cross-border truck drivers tested positive for COVID-19, but said they were doing everything to return the situation to normal “as soon as possible”.

Hong Kong imports 90% of its food, with the mainland being its main source, especially for fresh food. Some products imported from overseas, including premium seafood, are unavailable due to strict flight restrictions.

Health authorities reported 1,347 new COVID-19 infections, down from 1,514 on Saturday, but told a news conference there were around 2,000 preliminary cases. The rapid spread of the epidemic has overwhelmed health facilities, they said.

Local media had reported that Hong Kong would report a record 3,000 infections, including preliminary cases.

“For those in stable condition, please wait patiently. Please heed our appeal,” Hong Kong Hospital Authority chief executive Larry Lee (李立業) said.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee (李家超) said on Saturday there was no lockdown plan, where schools, gymnasiums, cinemas and most other venues are closed. Social gatherings are limited to two people, restaurants close at 6 p.m., and it’s rare to see anyone without a mask.

Most office workers are working from home again.

Hong Kong and mainland China are among the few places in the world that still aim to suppress every outbreak of COVID-19, but the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has proven difficult to control and the spread is putting pressure on a stretched health system.

The mainland measures announced on Saturday give Hong Kong some breathing room as medical capacity is tested on all fronts, although there are no specific details on the plans and it is unclear how. speed they could be implemented.

Hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the global financial hub are 90% occupied, according to data from the Hospital Authority, while isolation facilities neared maximum.

The territory’s government must shorten the quarantine period for residents and staff of nursing homes for the elderly as isolation beds are in short supply, said Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labor Law and Welfare, Chi -kwong (羅致光).

Hong Kong has recorded around 24,000 infections and more than 200 deaths. Medical experts have said it could see 28,000 daily infections by the end of next month.

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