Hong Kong turns Covid corner as new cases decline

Health chief says it's too soon to say the epidemic is under control and urges the public to remain vigilant

Hong Kong turns Covid corner as new cases decline
Hospital overcrowding has led to the establishment of a temporary facility in the AsiaWorld Expo complex. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The epidemic in Hong Kong showed signs of improvement on Sunday as new infections fell below 100 for the first time in 13 days.

The Centre for Health Protection said Monday that 80 Covid-19 infections were recorded, comprising 66 with links to previous cases and 14 with unknown sources, in the 24 hours on Sunday. On Saturday, the number of infections was 115, the 12th consecutive day the figure had exceeded 100. No imported case was recorded over the weekend.

New cases seem to have peaked at 149 on July 29 while imported cases also declined. Since July 29, the government has stopped most ships from changing crews in Hong Kong. 

Medical experts said sea and flight crews had carried the coronavirus into the territory. About 10,000 sailors had been exempt from quarantine.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said it was too early to say whether the epidemic was under control. She urged the public to remain vigilant and observe good personal hygiene because infections could rebound.

Last Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she had invoked a colonial-era emergency law to postpone the coming Legislative Council election from September 6 this year to September 5, 2021, due to the epidemic.

Michael Davis, a US-based academic and a former professor from the law faculty at the University of Hong Kong, told RTHK, “There’s a lot of suspicion that this is more about the risk of losing the election than it is about the pandemic.”

Singapore, South Korea and many other places had done well holding elections despite the pandemic.

“Hong Kong is not a poor undeveloped place. It’s a very high-tech place. I have no doubt they could have solved this problem,” he said.

On Monday, a man, 83, and a woman, 84, died, raising the total in Hong Kong to 37. Most of those who have died have been elderly.

In late July, more than 100 patients were turned away from hospitals due to insufficient beds.

On Saturday, the opening of a temporary facility in the AsiaWorld Expo complex helped ease the hospital overcrowding.

The Hospital Authority said that the new facility would be designed to take in patients who had been in public hospitals and were not ready to return home but whose symptoms were mild. Initially, about 100 patients will be treated at the new center.

Meanwhile, six medics from Wuhan who have experience of setting up temporary facilities during the early stages of the virus outbreak, arrived at Hong Kong on Saturday to help at AsiaWorld Expo.

  • By Jeff Pao