Hong Kong is overwhelmed by an “attack” of COVID infections as a fifth wave of the virus pushes the city’s capacity to its limits.
Deaths in Chinese controlled financial hub remains far smaller than in similarly large cities, but daily infections have multiplied 13 times over the last two weeks.
Cases have risen from around 100 in early February to more than 1,300 on 13 February, leaving the authorities struggling to control the burgeoning outbreak.
It is expected that a further 1,530 cases will be reported on Monday – according to the TV station TVB, citing an unidentified source – which would be a new record for daily figures.
There are warnings that daily infections can rise as high as 28,000.
Hospital beds for COVID patients are already at 90% capacity, data from the Hospital Authority showed.
“The attack from the fifth wave of the epidemic has given Hong Kong a hard blow and overwhelmed the city’s ability to cope,” said Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
“The situation is highly undesirable and the government is feeling worried and upset,” she said.
China has said it will help the city with test, quarantine and treatment resources and secure resources ranging from fast antigen sets to fresh vegetables.
Hong Kong imports 90% of its food, and some supplies have been cut off after cross-border truck drivers tested positive for the virus.
Following a four-year-old death this week, the government said children aged three and up would be eligible for a vaccine from tomorrow, February 15th.
Since the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong has reported around 24,000 infections and 200 deaths.
The city, like the Chinese mainland, is working on a “zero-COVID” policy and looks set to curb any outbreak as soon as it occurs – unlike other countries, including Britain, that are trying to live with the virus.
Strict flights has effectively made Hong Kong one of the world’s most isolated cities, and Beijing will not allow the borders of mainland China to be reopened unless the city reaches zero cases.
Hong Kong residents ban more than two people from public gatherings, while most venues – including schools, churches and gyms – are all closed. Dining in restaurants is prohibited from kl. 18:00, and most continue to work from home.
From the end of February, a vaccine passport will only allow vaccinated people to visit places, including shopping malls and supermarkets.
Hong Kong residents have expressed growing frustration over the tight restrictions.
In a long queue outside a vaccination center on Thursday, retiree Ken Wong, 70, said: “This is insane.
“There is no way to reach zero cases. If we have to reach zero cases, it will mean that everyone’s wallet will be empty because many people will be out of work and have no income.”
Practices, such as sewage testing to find traces of the virus and then requiring entire communities to be tested if detected, also stretch the patience of residents who endure long queues at test centers.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed over to communist-ruled China in 1997. Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, it was to retain its own political, social and financial institutions for 50 years.