HONG KONG – Under the pressure of a new wave of infections linked to the omicron variant, the Hong Kong government has ended its practice of hospitalizing all those infected with the coronavirus, regardless of severity.
Priority will be given to hospital admissions to children, the elderly and those in critical conditions, authorities said on Sunday, as daily rates of new infections rise to more than 1,000 per day from low levels just a week ago.
The surge came after families and relatives gathered during the Lunar New Year celebrations.
Larry Lee, head of integrated clinical services for the General Hospital Authority, said the latest arrangements were “not ideal” but stressed that limited resources must be allocated to those who need them most. Instead of being sent to hospital immediately, Lee said, those who test positive but are in stable condition and have milder symptoms can stay home and wait for treatment.
“We will try to make sure that patients can be accepted in a timely manner,” he said.
The new policy represents a step back from the city “Zero Covid” which was collapsing in the face of the last wave.
The city recorded eight coronavirus-related deaths last week. As of Sunday, authorities reported 1,347 new cases, most of them related to the omicron variant.
Strict measures have kept infection rates in the city low for a long time, with just 221 deaths in the past two years, but daily cases have reached unprecedented levels, straining resources.
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong expect 1,000 deaths by June and they said a “two to three month shutdown” was the only hope for a return to zero cases. However, the government announced Sunday that it will do so Temporarily excluded Close but set up joint working groups with neighboring Guangdong on the mainland.
“We are now in the toughest battle with this virus in two years, and we believe infection numbers will remain high,” said Edwin Tsui of the Center for Health Protection.
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