© Reuters. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference at government headquarters in Hong Kong, China March 9, 2022. Peter Parks / Pool via REUTERS
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong announced plans to devote more medical resources to the elderly on Wednesday as COVID-19 infections swept through care homes and deaths accelerated among the elderly. mostly unvaccinated.
The government will increase treatment and medical resources and set up more isolation and temporary care facilities for elderly coronavirus patients, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a press conference.
She said the date for a mandatory mass testing scheme, which has caused panic buying of groceries and necessities in the city, is still being considered but the government has not decided on a timeframe due to the scale of this activity.
“This is a big exercise that cannot be done overnight. Without detailed preparation and mobilizing all resources, it cannot be done.”
Her comments came after a top Chinese official said Hong Kong must prioritize minimizing infections, severe illness and deaths.
The total number of infections in the global financial hub has risen to around 600,000, including more than 2,600 deaths – most in the past two weeks.
Health authorities reported nearly 60,000 new infections on Wednesday, split between nucleic acid testing and those confirmed through a newly launched online platform where people can submit test results. positive rapid antigen test.
The city with the most deaths globally per million people in the week to March 7, as announced by Our World in Data.
Lam, who has spoken to the media for the first time in more than two weeks, said she will hold daily press conferences to detail the city’s progress against the coronavirus and clarify rumors. or misunderstood.
People in the Chinese-controlled territory have expressed confusion and frustration at conflicting messages from the government over the past two weeks about the campaign against the virus, including plans for mass testing and whether whether a citywide lockdown is in place.
China and Hong Kong have adopted a “zero-dynamic” strategy that involves eliminating infections with strict mitigation measures in contrast to the approach adopted elsewhere that relies on proportions. high vaccination and moderate mitigation such as wearing a mask in an effort to “live with COVID”.
The highly transmissible variant of Omicron has been tested for both strategies but Hong Kong is currently suffering the consequences of a relatively low vaccination rate, especially among the elderly, as the virus spreads. through the community.
About 90.5% of people have been vaccinated at least once, but the elderly rate falls seriously behind, only about 50% for people 80 years of age and older.
Medical experts from the University of Hong Kong estimate that by the end of April, the number of people infected in this city of 7.4 million people could be around 4.3 million, with the death toll at 5,000.
Hong Kong’s hospitals, isolation centers and funeral homes are flooded while public transport, malls, postal services, supermarkets and pharmacies are struggling to operate due to shortages serious manpower.
Food prices have skyrocketed and supermarket shelves have been emptied every day for a week as shoppers panic buying amid fears of a possible lockdown.
China has built a temporary bridge from neighboring Shenzhen to northern Hong Kong to transport materials and workers for a makeshift hospital and isolation facilities. The site is set up to accommodate about 10,000 people.
Reuters journalists saw dozens of trucks cross the bridge, delivering goods on Wednesday.