Hong Kong health expert amid rising Covid cases

Patients lie in hospital beds waiting for medical attention at a temporary shelter near the Caritas Medical Center in Hong Kong, China, February 16, 2022.

Leung Man Hei | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Hong Kong needs to protect its healthcare system, which is now under enormous stress due to a surge in coronavirus cases, a CNBC health expert said Friday.

Hong Kong is experiencing a fifth wave caused by a more contagious strain of omicron. The number of cases has risen sharply, from just over 100 new cases a day in early February to a record 6,166 new cases on Thursday.

“Basically, right now in Hong Kong, we need to protect the integrity of the healthcare system,” said Gabriel Leung, dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong. “The healthcare system in Hong Kong is currently under enormous stress.”

Authorities blamed the surge on “extreme transfer rateomicron option, and said the “tsunami” of new cases “far exceeded” the city’s capacity for treatment, tracing, testing and isolation.

The government said this week that hospitals were facing “tremendous pressure.” As of February 18, the occupancy rate of public hospitals was 92%, according to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

According to media reports, there were scenes of patients huddled together on beds left in the open outside of hospitals as facilities were overwhelmed.

Leung told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” that the city needs to slow down the pace of the current surge.

“The only way you can slow this down now is to really go and further restrict people from mixing with each other and from moving around the city,” he said.

“So whether you call it a lockdown or whether you call it heightened or heightened public health and social measures, I really don’t mind – the jargon is not important.”

Health workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) attend to a patient with Covid symptoms in a temporary triage area next to the emergency room at the Caritas Medical Center Hospital in Hong Kong, Wednesday, February 16, 2022.

Bertha Van | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“What we need to do desperately is make sure we protect the integrity of the hospital system so that we don’t let people get worse if they really need help in hospitals,” he continued.

Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that There are no plans for a citywide quarantine.

“The immediate response of the Hong Kong SAR government … is to increase capacity at various stages of this anti-epidemic effort, and this is what we are doing,” she said.

“I have to be very clear that we don’t have plans for massive city shutdowns like you have seen in some other places,” she told reporters.

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