As more doctors from mainland China are expected to arrive in the city to help battle the fifth wave of Covid-19, a Hospital Authority official said the reinforcements would treat patients “in a collaboration model” with local staff. However, the official avoided reporters’ questions on who would bear responsibility should any accidents occur in relation to imported mainland medics.

Meanwhile, a medical expert from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has predicted that the city’s fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak will eventually lead to over 4.5 million infections and more than 7,000 casualties.

medic medical doctor A&E emergency ER caritas covid covid-19 queue
Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong during the fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced during Monday morning’s media briefing that 75 mainland medics would arrive later in the day to assist Hospital Authority staff in treating Covid-19 patients. An additional 300 were expected within a week.

On February 24, the government invoked emergency powers to allow mainland doctors and nurses to work in Hong Kong without passing local exams and licensing regulations.

During Monday afternoon’s daily Covid-19 briefing, reporters from four different outlets – iCable, TVB, AM730 and Ming Pao – asked the Chief Manager (Quality and Standards) of the Hospital Authority Lau Ka-hin who would be responsible if any medical mishaps occurred while the mainland medics operate in Hong Kong.

In all four instances, the health official did not directly address the enquiry, but repeated that medical personnel from both jurisdictions would treat Covid-19 patients “in a collaboration model” and share their “experience” and “expertise.”

Hospital Authority Lau Ka-hin
Chief Manager (Quality and Standards) of the Hospital Authority Lau Ka-hin. Photo: Video screenshot, via RTHK.

He said that over the past week, around a dozen visiting mainland Chinese experts had deliberated with the Hospital Authority on how medics from Hong Kong and mainland China could work together. They discussed “clinical observation, medicine prescriptions and treatment methods,” Lau said.

Lau compared the proposed “collaborations” between mainland and Hong Kong medical personnel to existing examples in the city, such as when doctors from different hospitals cooperated in the treatment of certain patients.

“Overall, what I can say is, the clinical procedures, administration and clinical systems will be consistent with the existing measures of the Hospital Authority,” Lau said.

According to Lau, some 300 imported mainland medical staff would be deployed to the AsiaWorld-Expo.

CUHK predictions

Kwok Kin-on, an assistant professor at CUHK’s Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, appeared on RTHK on Monday morning to speak about the latest epidemiological modelling.

According to their model, Kwok said between 4.5 to 5 million in Hong Kong would contract the coronavirus by the end of the current Covid-19 wave, while the death toll could reach 7,000 to 9,000.

He estimated that the city’s daily case count would maintain its position for two to three weeks and it would only dip below 1,000 in late May or early June.

Kwok said indicators on Hong Kong residents’ daily activities have shown a “historic low” over the past two weeks.

Chinese University of Hong Kong CUHK
Photo: CUHK.

However, he said he was concerned that citizens may develop pandemic fatigue and become used to the high case numbers daily. “In the next few weeks, many may get infected then recover, while some will be vaccinated. [They] may perceive the risks as lower and lead to an increase in the flow of people,” Kwok added.

That might lead to a rebound in infections, Kwok warned, and he advised against relaxing social distancing measures at the moment.

In his view, authorities should consider removing some of the restrictions only when the case count drops below 10,000 daily, while keeping the dine-in ban during dinner service in place.

On Monday, health authorities reported 26,908 new cases and 286 more Covid-19 related deaths. Hong Kong has recorded a total of 706,877 infections and 3,993 deaths as of Sunday.

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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.