Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority (HA) has asked the public to understand its difficulties with saturated mortuaries amid the city’s Covid-19 crisis, as an image of bodies lying next to living patients on a hospital ward surfaced online.

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A photo verified by HKFP shows bodies next to patients on a ward at Hong Kong’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Jordan in early March. Photo: Internet.

The photo, circulating on Facebook on Friday, showed six body bags left on stretchers next to three patients on a public hospital ward. The photo was taken at the Accident & Emergency ward of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Jordan, a medic who works at the hospital told HKFP. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

They indicated that the photo would have been taken around early March, although the situation has largely been alleviated after workers sped up transfers to mortuaries. The hospital has also allocated an empty ward for temporary storage.

refridgerating container covid-19 hong kong death
Two refrigerating containers set at temperatures between one to two degrees above zero were seen outside the mortuary at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Friday. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

HKFP also noted refrigerated containers outside the building last week.

The medic added that there have been fewer patients remaining in the A&E ward since QEH began transferring away non-Covid patients on Wednesday.

Hong Kong reported 29,381 Covid-19 infections on Friday, of which 10,493 were determined from rapid tests. There have been 3,150 deaths related to the pandemic as of Thursday.

‘Very sorry’

Sara Ho, chief manager of the Hospital Authority, said on Friday that the situation seen in the photographs has since been dealt with.

Made with Flourish

“The Hospital Authority understands that sometimes bodies cannot be transferred to the mortuary in time,” Ho said. “We hope everyone could be understanding [about how] public hospitals have done their best to use more manpower to handle this situation.”

“We are very sorry for causing discomfort to patients,” she said, adding that hospital workers always ensure patients’ remains are treated with respect.

Internet users expressed shock at the photo: “What did I just see? These scenes occurred in European countries like Italy during the early days of the pandemic, but it was because nobody knew what this virus was,” one user wrote on Facebook. “But for two years our government officials did not know to think of danger in times of safety.”

Another wrote: “This is living together [with Covid], medics are under so much pressure.”

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.