As Hong Kong battles its fifth and most significant wave of the Coronavirus, the city recorded 3,629 confirmed cases today, with all, except for two, being locally transmitted, according to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) and Hospital Authority (HA). The CHP also reported 7,600 preliminary positive cases and a backlog of 4,800 samples that are currently undergoing testing. Since midnight, the HA noted 10 Covid-related deaths and ten more critical conditions while 251 patients had recovered.
As noted by reports of patients being forced to wait in outdoor tents, the HA continues to grapple with overcapacity. In response, the HA has made arrangements to convert areas, such as outpatient clinic waiting areas, corridors, and staff areas, into indoor waiting rooms. With 90% of hospital beds already being utilized, the HA asks residential care homes (RCH) to accept recovered elderly to free up hospital beds for reuse. The HA has canceled roughly half of appointments and surgeries to release the workforce to aid the current situation.
The Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor also announced in her speech that, with the backing of the Central Government, mandatory universal testing is being planned and may be implemented. However, the CE remained firm that a complete city lockdown may not go hand-in-hand with such universal testing, instead opting to follow Macau’s example of conducting several rounds of universal testing.
The week’s day-by-day summary:
Monday, February 14th, saw a total of 2,071 cases and over 4,500 preliminary positive cases.
The government lowered the minimum age for Sinovac vaccinations to include children aged three and above. Vaccinations will be carried out at the five Student Health Service Centres. Parents or guardians can make an online appointment here.
The Education Bureau announced the continued suspension of all face-to-face classes for kindergarten, primary and secondary schools until March 6th.
Tuesday, February 15th, had 1,619 confirmed cases and over 5,400 preliminary positive cases.
The funding application for the sixth round of the Anti-epidemic fund, totalling HK$27 billion, passed the Legislative Council. The fund comprises 48 schemes, which are estimated to benefit 67,000 businesses and 750,000 individuals who have been affected by social distancing and anti-epidemic efforts.
To alleviate overcapacity at public hospitals, community treatment, and isolation facilities, the HA activated seven clinics for confirmed patients with mild symptoms awaiting admission into proper facilities. These clinics are open from Monday to Sunday, including public holidays, from 9 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm, and help provide diagnosis and treatment. Eligible patients must call the selected designated clinic to make an appointment at least 24 hours in advance. The details of the seven clinics can be found here. The hotline 1836 115 will operate daily from 8 am to 10 pm to answer any questions on medical information and provide infection control advice for those confirmed and pending admission to an isolation facility.
Wednesday, February 16th, reported 4,285 confirmed cases and about 7,000 preliminary cases.
The Transport, Housing Bureau and the taxi industry had established a designated taxi fleet of 300 taxis to provide patients with free transport services between the designated clinics and their homes starting February 18th. These taxis are specially labelled for public identification and must be booked online here or via the hotline at 3693 4770, which is available from 8 am to 10 pm. Patients will need to provide their name, contact number, appointment time, designated clinic, pick-up location, and other information. Drivers will then contact registered patients to confirm and arrange the transport service.
To combat the bottleneck of people stuck at home waiting to transfer to isolation facilities, the Chief Executive coordinated with the hotel sector to secure an additional 10,000 hotel rooms for the government’s Community Isolation Facility Hotel Scheme. These 10,000 rooms will be added to the already 4,400 rooms reserved by the government for isolation.
Thursday, February 17th, confirmed 6,116 cases, 2,648 of whom were asymptomatic, as well as 6,300 preliminary positive cases.
Undersecretary for Food and Health Dr.Chui Tak-yi announced the relaxation of the government’s discharge to speed up the turnover rate of hospitals and community isolation facilities (CIF). All confirmed patients must still spend their first seven days at a CIF. However, now patients who test negative on the seventh day and do not live with any high-risk individuals (i.e., senior citizens, pregnant women, or the immuno-suppressed) will be able to return home and self-quarantine until the 14th day. If said patient tests negative on their 14th day, they no longer need to self-isolate at home. However, if the patient lives with a high-risk individual or tests positive on their seventh day at the CIF, they will be forced to stay at the CIF for the full 14 days and will not leave until they get a negative result.
Regarding the fresh food supplies from the Mainland, the volume of vegetables sold at wholesale markets stood at around 80 percent of a day’s volume, while the supply of chilled poultry and meat imported remained at 60 percent. The supply of live pigs is operating as usual.