An exhibition venue near Hong Kong International Airport could be the next holding facility for stable Covid-19 patients to ease the burden on public hospitals, health authorities in the city said on Saturday amid a third wave of coronavirus infections.
The announcement involving AsiaWorld-Expo came as an existing quarantine facility could also be converted for the same purpose and be ready to receive people in one to two weeks at the earliest.
Sixty-four new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, including 60 which were locally transmitted, pushed Hong Kong’s tally to 1,777, surpassing the 1,755 infection figure recorded for the severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003.
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Lei Yue Mun Park and Holiday Village in Chai Wan, one of the quarantine centres currently used for close contacts of confirmed cases and people returning from high-risk areas, has been designated as the first community facility to house stable coronavirus patients who did not show symptoms and can care for themselves.
Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Tony Ko Pat-sing said the site could begin operations soon.
“Under the current epidemic situation, we have been seeing around 50 to 60 new cases every day. If this trend continues, it is possible that we would need to activate the use of the facility in one to two weeks,” Ko told a morning radio programme.
Latest information from the Centre for Health Protection showed that as of Saturday morning, there were still 334 people occupying 247 units in the Chai Wan facility, which in total has 379 units.
Ko said he would not rule out the possibility of using part of the site for Covid-19 patients first, before all people who were undergoing quarantine had moved out.
He also revealed that AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport could be the next facility with the same purpose.
“We used AsiaWorld-Expo as a [virus] test centre before,” Ko said. “We have experience in work procedures and operations there.” He was referring to a stretch between March and April when an influx of imported infections were recorded. The exhibition venue was used as a testing centre for air arrivals.
Ko said infection control measures for the site, such as a ventilation system, had been studied by various experts when the venue was used as a testing centre.
But Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a government adviser and a respiratory medicine expert from Chinese University, said a specific sewage system for medical waste disposal was needed before the expo could handle patients.
Pressure on hospital isolation beds – with 1,200 first-tier slots and 500 second-tier, in terms of level of infection control – has been piling with the surge in the number of Covid-19 patients. The city has more than 420 such patients receiving care in 14 hospitals.
Meanwhile, some 800 quarantine units newly constructed on government land in Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island were put to use on Saturday. About 50 people had already been sent there for quarantine.
Starting from July 25, travellers from high-risk countries such as India and Pakistan would need to produce negative Covid-19 test results before boarding a flight to Hong Kong, the authorities said on Saturday.
The test would need to be done within 72 hours of departure for Hong Kong.
Under the new regulation, first raised by the government on July 13, people arriving in the city from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines and South Africa within the past 14 days will also be subject to stricter preflight health checks.
They will be allowed to undergo quarantine in a hotel, instead of the current arrangement at a government facility, provided they show proof of a room reservation for at least 14 days from the date of arrival.
Airlines must also submit documents to the Hong Kong authorities in advance if there are high-risk passengers on board.
The Hong Kong government has been renting hotel rooms to quarantine arrivals from high-risk areas.
So far, around 100 such travellers have been sent to some 60 rooms booked by the government in Silka Hotel in Tseun Wan.
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