Hong Kong's Covid-19 tally passes 3,000 mark

Community outbreaks have been growing at a faster pace than healthcare services can cope with. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - The city's confirmed Covid-19 infections passed the 3,000 mark as it recorded more than 100 new cases for the eighth consecutive day, putting yet more pressure on the healthcare system.

At the daily briefing on Wednesday (July 29), health authorities said 113 of the 118 new cases were due to local spread.

The total tally of cases is now 3,002, including 24 deaths.

Over the past five weeks, community outbreaks have been growing at a faster pace than healthcare services can cope with, prompting infectious disease experts to urge people to stay indoors.

In her starkest warning yet, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a video released on Wednesday: "We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly.

"In order to protect our loved ones, our healthcare staff and Hong Kong, I appeal to you to follow strictly the social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible."

Within the span of just eight days, the city added almost 1,000 new patients - 30 per cent of the total tally since the virus first hit the city in late January.

While Hong Kong has one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, the number of deaths has accelerated in the past weeks. July alone has recorded 17 deaths, many of them elderly patients.

In the past few days, there have been reports that Covid-19 patients have had to wait for days to be admitted to hospitals.

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Dr Sara Ho, chief manager for patient safety and risk management at Hospital Authority, a statutory body, said at the briefing that from as early as Saturday, the AsiaWorld-Expo convention centre can be used to house patients.

Hours before the briefing, Dr Arisina Ma, president of the Public Doctors' Association, told local radio RTHK: "If we really run out of any isolation facilities or isolation hospital beds, handling some very stable patients at home is another option."

She said the tight living environment in the city drives the need for more isolation facilities for those waiting to be admitted to hospital who live with elderly relatives.

The government moved on Monday to tighten restrictions further, with public gatherings halved to two since Wednesday.

The rule on wearing masks at all times in outdoor public places also took effect, while eateries can only provide takeaways.

Sports centres and swimming pools were added to the list of venues ordered to shut for seven days till Aug 4.

The coronavirus pandemic has weighed heavily on consumer spending, trade and tourism in Hong Kong, adding to the economy's recessionary woes. Advance estimates released Wednesday showed the economy to shrank by nine per cent year-on-year in the second quarter, although this beat some forecasts.

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