Mainland Chinese health authorities have offered to help Hong Kong fight its worsening Covid-19 crisis with the local government likely to welcome the offer, according to sources, after the city recorded on Wednesday its highest-ever daily total infections at 113.
Officials in Hong Kong and Guangdong are believed to be in talks but no details have been unveiled so far.
A source close to the government believed the city’s leader had asked for help from the mainland, adding: “The mainland won’t just offer help without any request from the Hong Kong government. Their provision of medical equipment and expertise in building isolation facilities will be helpful to the city.”
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
In a visit to Shenzhen on Tuesday, Guangdong Communist Party chief Li Xi called on officials there to strengthen quarantine checks on inbound travellers and to support Hong Kong’s prevention and control measures “with a strong sense of political responsibility”.
“[We have to] continuously improve the joint prevention and control mechanism among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, and offer [our] full support to the prevention and control measures in Hong Kong and Macau, in accordance with central government’s planning,” the official Nanfang Daily newspaper reported.
However, Hong Kong’s medical regulatory system does not allow the mainland to send its health staff to the city, where professionals working in that field must be locally registered.
The offers of support are believed to be a friendly gesture from the mainland as the city battles a third wave of infections that has pushed its Covid-19 case tally above the 2,000-mark.
While the city has been struggling with a resurgent pandemic, the situation in mainland China has already improved.
According to Hong Kong’s health authorities, which track global infections using international sources, mainland China has only recorded some 128 new infections in the past two weeks. The total number of Covid-19 cases on the mainland is more than 83,000.
In Hong Kong, more than 800 new infections have been reported in the past 14 days.
Wednesday’s toll of 113 new infections have taken the city’s tally of confirmed cases to 2,131, with 14 related deaths.
Of the new infections, 105 were locally transmitted with the source of transmission for 63 local cases unknown. The remaining eight infections from Wednesday’s tally were imported from India, the Philippines, the United States and Kazakhstan.
A news account on WeChat, a popular messaging app on the mainland, published a post on Tuesday reporting that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had sought Beijing’s help in its coronavirus fight because the city’s medical system would not be able to cope if the outbreak worsened.
Asked about the post, the Hong Kong government said it would not comment on speculation.
But a mainland official said Beijing had received such requests and summoned the relevant ministries, including the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the National Health Commission, to work out the details.
“The help will not only be limited to one city or province, but Guangdong is expected to play a big part,” the source said. He said one immediate “doable” step was for Shenzhen or Zhuhai to help Hong Kong strengthen its testing capabilities. “Samples can be sent to Shenzhen or Zhuhai for testing and turnaround time will be within a day. That will take some pressure off from Hong Kong’s labs.”
Dr Lam Ching-choi, a cabinet-level adviser in Hong Kong, agreed the state could help by widening the city’s testing capabilities, and mainland construction companies could bid for projects to build quarantine facilities.
Three companies, including two with mainland ties – Shenzhen-based Sunrise Diagnostic Centre Limited is one – have been tapped to help Hong Kong’s government test 400,000 members in high-risk sectors of society. These include elderly and disability care home staff, taxi drivers, as well as workers in restaurant and property management.
“We might further invite these companies to carry out large-scale testing for residents in public estates in the future, as local testing capacity is still limited,” Lam said, while dismissing the idea that some mainland medical staff or enforcement agents would work in the city.
Additional reporting by Matt Ho
Purchase the 120+ page China Internet Report 2020 Pro Edition, brought to you by SCMP Research, and enjoy a 30% discount (original price US$400). The report includes deep-dive analysis, trends, and case studies on the 10 most important internet sectors. Now in its 3rd year, this go-to source for understanding China tech also comes with exclusive access to 6+ webinars with C-level executives, including Charles Li, CEO of HKEX, James Peng, CEO/founder of Pony.ai, and senior executives from Alibaba, Huawei, Kuaishou, Pinduoduo, and more. Offer valid until 31 August 2020. To purchase, please click here.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong’s third wave of Covid-19 kills two more elderly patients as public hospitals warn they could run out of first-tier isolation beds
- Hong Kong third wave: how did city’s scariest surge in Covid-19 cases start, and what did authorities miss?