Hospitals overflow as Hong Kong grapples with ‘tsunami’ of COVID-19 cases

Hong Kong’s government on Tuesday said it was facing “a tsunami” of new COVID-19 cases that had over-burdened its hospitals and left more than 10,000 patients waiting for treatment

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 03:45 PM IST
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Representative Image | (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

Hong Kong’s government on Tuesday said it was facing “a tsunami” of new COVID-19 cases that had over-burdened its hospitals and left more than 10,000 patients waiting for treatment, The Hindu reported.

“A tsunami of new cases has far exceeded the enhanced capacities of Hong Kong on various fronts including testing, tracing, quarantine, isolation and treatment,” a statement from the government said, adding that hospitals “are facing immense pressure, and cannot admit all cases tested preliminarily positive or confirmed for COVID-19.”

The Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) on Tuesday logged a record 7,000 COVID-19 infections (1,600 confirmed and 5,400 preliminary positives) while reports said some 10,000 people were awaiting admission to hospitals.

With the increase in cases, officials said they will send mild cases to empty housing blocks that are being arranged as well as to hotels to relax the pressure on hospitals while prioritising treatment for the senior citizens and young.

Authorities this week are also finalising plans to create a temporary hospital along the lines of the temporary “ark hospitals” built in Wuhan at the onset of the pandemic.

The current wave – the worst in Hong Kong in two years since the beginning of the pandemic – fuelled by the Omicron strain has witnessed over 15,000 infections in the last two weeks and at least 12 fatalities, bursting the “zero COVID” strategy that had helped Hong Kong to avert a major second wave as in much of the world, in part thanks to continued international travel restrictions and mass testing and tracing to swiftly curb local clusters.

That strategy has not proved to be of help in the face of the Omicron surge and the infection numbers are expected to rise in coming days given a backlog in testing. Microbiologist Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post “case reporting was probably suffering from a three to four day lag”. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in an address said the situation was “highly undesirable” and the government was “sorry”.

The newspaper quoted analysts as saying the “management of the pandemic” was “a key test of the chief executive’s ability to lead Hong Kong”, with her five-year term coming to an end this year and continuing uncertainty whether she will stay for another term or if Beijing may prefer to back an alternative.

The Hong Kong government said it is expecting help from the mainland to deal with the current situation, including assistance to quickly scale up testing capacity.

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