Hong Kong leader says fifth Covid wave has 'overwhelmed' city's capacity

By Reuters   February 13, 2022 | 06:13 pm PT
Hong Kong leader says fifth Covid wave has 'overwhelmed' city's capacity
A medical worker walks past a makeshift testing centre for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following the outbreak, outside a shopping mall at Sha Tin district, in Hong Kong, China, February 7, 2022. Photo by Reuters
Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam said on Monday that the "onslaught" of coronavirus infections in the global financial hub has dealt a heavy blow and overwhelmed its capacity to deal with the epidemic as daily cases surge to record highs.

Daily infections have multiplied 13 times over the past two weeks, from about 100 cases at the start of February to over 1,300 on Feb. 13, with authorities scrambling to control the deepening outbreak.

Lam said her government would coordinate with Chinese officials to tackle the "aggravating situation" after China said it would help the city with testing, treatment and quarantine.

"The onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong and overwhelmed the city's capacity of handling," she said, adding that the surge had lengthened the amount of time before infected patients could access isolation facilities.

"The situation is highly undesirable and the government feels worried and sorry about it," she said.

Her top officials would coordinate with the central government to enhance Hong Kong's testing and isolation facilities, and secure resources from rapid antigen kits and protective gear to fresh vegetables, she said.

The Chinese territory reported 1,347 new infections on Sunday, down from Saturday's record, but the spread with 2,000 more suspected cases threatens its overstretched healthcare system, authorities said.

Medical experts warn the city could see 28,000 daily infections by the end of March, with the unvaccinated elderly a particular worry.

Hospital beds for Covid-19 patients in the global financial hub are already at 90 percent occupancy, data from the city's Hospital Authority showed, while isolation facilities are also near full capacity.

Hong Kong is prioritising elderly, children and those in serious conditions in hospitals, said Larry Lee, chief manager at the city's Hospital Authority.

Lam said authorities would "spare no effort" to implement the "dynamic zero" coronavirus infection strategy in Hong Kong, which, like mainland China, seeks to curb outbreaks as soon as they occur, in contrast with many other places that are trying to live with Covid.

Hong Kong has recorded about 24,000 infections and more than 200 deaths, less than other similar major cities.

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