With a record 3,000 COVID-19 cases reported on Sunday, Hong Kong is rushing to build a Wuhan-style temporary hospital as its healthcare infrastructure faces a surge that experts said is likely to overwhelm its already stretched capacity.
The Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) on Sunday reported 1,340 confirmed infections as well as 2,000 suspected cases.
The current wave has posed the biggest challenge yet to Hong Kong’s “zero COVID” strategy, which had, since the first wave in early 2020, largely enabled the SAR to escape a major second wave unlike much of the world, with a combination of continued international travel restrictions, mass testing and a sweeping contact tracing system that quickly stamped out local clusters.
That strategy has been overwhelmed by the current surge in cases and the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant in the community. Hong Kong in the past week has reported eight deaths, including of a four year old boy, the first COVID-19 deaths in more than half a year.
The SAR has now sought the help of the mainland authorities to build additional healthcare infrastructure with its hospitals already unable to cope with the current wave.
“The number of confirmed and preliminary-positive COVID-19 cases has seriously exceeded the capacity that we can tolerate at hospitals. Our isolation facilities are also full,” Larry Lee Lap-yip, a chief manager at the Hospital Authority, was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The newspaper reported that authorities are considering targeted lockdowns as well as building a makeshift hospital modelled on the temporary “ark hospitals” that came up in Wuhan during the initial outbreak to deal with the heavy load of cases. An initial design will be decided on next week while land has been earmarked.
Hong Kong, like the mainland, is one of the few remaining places following what is being called a “dynamic zero COVID” strategy and still largely isolated from the rest of the world. Hong Kong had hoped doing so would at least open up the SAR to the mainland but plans for a bubble with neighbouring Guangdong province collapsed in December.
With an economy dependent on both the mainland as well as on its status as Asia’s financial hub, the SAR is dealing with a double whammy of being closed off to both the rest of China and Asia. The Guangdong government said this weekend it would send assistance, from medical supplies and testing assistance to health experts, as the SAR deals with the current surge. The Hindu