Hong Kong’s is being overwhelmed by the “onslaught” of COVID-19 infections, its leader said on Monday, although deaths in the China controlled financial hub remain far less than other smaller cities since the pandemic erupted two years ago.
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.
As the caseload soared, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam issuing a statement on Monday said her administration would coordinate with Chinese officials to tackle the “aggravating situation”.
China has said it would help the city with testing, treatment and quarantine, and secure resources from rapid antigen kits and protective gear to fresh vegetables.
The city is due to detect at least 1,530 COVID-19 cases on Monday, broadcaster TVB said, citing an unidentified sources. It would be a new record for daily cases.
“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 pointed out, adding patients were having to wait longer to access isolation facilities.
“The situation is highly undesirable and the government feels worried and sorry about it,” she added.
With the healthcare system already overstretched, medical experts warn the city could see 28,000 daily cases by the end of March, with the unvaccinated elderly a particular worry.
Hospital beds for COVID-19 patients are already at 90% occupancy, data from the city’s Hospital Authority showed, while isolation facilities are 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. For all the alarm over the latest wave of the pandemic, Hong Kong’s total caseload since the pandemic first erupted was around 24,000 infections, including more than 200 deaths, less than many other similar major cities.