Hong Kong’s public hospitals have vowed to move patients who have been waiting for admission outside health care facilities indoors by Friday night, as the temperature is expected to drop to 10 degrees Celsius over the weekend.

As public hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of Covid-19 cases, patients – many on whom were elderly – have been seen waiting outdoors in cold, wet weather in recent days.

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Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po. Photo: Kenny Huang / Studio Incendo.

The Hospital Authority’s Chief Manager (Patient Safety and Risk Management) Sara Ho, who spoke at Friday’s regular Covid-19 briefing, said they were “very concerned” about the patients as the temperature will fall in following days. The Hospital Authority’s aim was to move all of them indoors by Friday night, Ho said.

“This is what we hope to do as soon as possible, and we will exhaust all of our means,” Ho said. Waiting areas in general clinics and staff rooms were being cleared to accommodate those out in the cold.

“Of course, when we put them indoors, we still need to evaluate the ventilation and flow of people and balance the risks,” Ho said, adding that the Food and Health Bureau and other government bodies were also looking for venues for patients to wait inside.

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The health official did not answer reporters’ questions on the number of people waiting outside hospitals, or whether any of those had died while waiting in the cold.

On Friday, Hong Kong reported 3,629 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, of which two were imported.

The city has detected another 7,600 preliminary positive cases, Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said during the briefing.

Chuang added that the CHP laboratory was processing around 4,800 specimens at the moment, “a small amount” of which were backlogged from before Thursday. The rest of Friday’s preliminary cases were samples due to be delivered to the CHP by private testing providers.

Of the 2,294 cases verified by the CHP, 52 were believed to be Delta cases and 2,136 were suspected Omicron infections. The remaining 1,335 cases were confirmed by the Health Authority’s laboratories, which do not identify the variant.

Chief Manager (Patient Safety and Risk Management) of the Hospital Authority, Sara Ho 18-2
Hospital Authority’s Sara Ho. Photo: Video screenshot, via RTHK.

According to Ho, 10 Covid-19 patients died in the past 24 hours, while around a dozen are currently in a critical condition.

Meanwhile, another 150 Hospital Authority staff tested preliminary positive on Friday. Ho said they were mostly infected in the community and their families.

The city has reported 40,700 Covid-19 cases and 248 deaths since the pandemic started.

2 vaccination centres to open

Two more vaccination centres located at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and in Tsuen Wan will open for reservations on Monday.

HKU University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

According to an announcement made by the Civil Service Bureau on Friday morning, the two centres will provide the German-manufactured BioNTech jabs to citizens and operate daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with an hour break between 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. for cleaning and disinfection.

The two centres are respectively located at the first floor of HKU’s Loke Yew Hall and the Tsuen Wan Sports Centre. Those aged 60 or above can walk-in and collect same-day tickets without a reservation.

Patrick Nip, the Secretary for the Civil Service, said in a statement that he was grateful to HKU and its medical team, adding that “the government is making every effort to expedite the pace of vaccination and strive for a vaccination rate of 90 per cent in the shortest period of time.”

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.