Hong Kong reported 1,347 new daily COVID-19 infections yesterday, down from the previous day’s record, but the spread, with 2,000 more suspected cases, threatens the territory’s overstretched healthcare system, authorities said.
The surge in COVID-19 cases, the biggest test yet for Hong Kong’s “dynamic zero-COVID” strategy, comes a day after the government said China would help with testing, treatment and quarantine capacity.
Authorities warned that food supplies into Hong Kong could be disrupted, after some cross-border truck drivers tested positive for COVID-19, but said they were doing everything to get the situation back to normal “as soon as possible.”
Hong Kong imports 90 percent of its food, with the mainland being its primary source, especially for fresh food. Some foreign imported goods, including premium seafood, are not available due to stringent flight restrictions.
Health authorities reported 1,347 new COVID-19 infections, down from Saturday’s 1,514, but they told a news conference there were about 2,000 preliminary cases. The rapid spread of the outbreak was overwhelming healthcare facilities, they said.
Local media had reported that Hong Kong would report a record 3,000 infections, including the preliminary cases.
“For those in a stable condition, please wait patiently. Please heed our appeal,” Hong Kong Hospital Authority chief manager Larry Lee (李立業) said.
Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee (李家超) said on Saturday that there were no plans for a lockdown, where schools, gyms, cinemas and most other venues are closed. Social gatherings are limited to two people, restaurants close at 6pm and it is rare to see anyone without a mask.
Most office employees are again working from home.
Hong Kong and mainland China are among the few places in the world still aiming to suppress every COVID-19 outbreak, but the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has proven tough to control and the spread is piling pressure on a stretched healthcare system.
Mainland measures announced on Saturday give Hong Kong some breathing space, as medical capacity is being tested on all fronts, although there were no specific details of the plans and it was not clear how quickly they could be implemented.
Hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the global financial hub are at 90 percent occupancy, Hospital Authority data showed, while isolation facilities were nearing their maximum.
The territory’s government is to shorten the quarantine period for residents and staff of residential care homes for the elderly because isolation beds are in short supply, Hong Kong Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong (羅致光) said.
Hong Kong has recorded about 24,000 infections and more than 200 deaths. Medical experts said that it could see 28,000 daily infections by the end of next month.
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