Hong Kong public hospitals now allow parents to accompany their Covid-positive children in wards as the city’s Omicron outbreak eases, a Hospital Authority official has said.

Parents and their children waited outside a Hong Kong public hospital on February 17, 2022.
Parents and their children waited outside a Hong Kong public hospital on February 17, 2022. The city’s public health system was under strain as the city braced the fifth Omicron wave. Photo: Kenny Huang/Studio Incendo.

Regardless of their Covid-19 status, parents whose children require hospitalisation will be allowed to keep them company in paediatric wards. Arrangements will be made once parents have been fully informed of the risks involved, Sara Ho, chief manager of the Hospital Authority confirmed during a routine Covid-19 press briefing on Monday.

During the peak of the fifth wave, hospitals were not able to allow parents or guardians to enter wards with minors as public hospitals were overwhelmed by a large number of patients, Ho said.

Made with Flourish

“We have always cared about having parents or caregivers keep children accompanied, but the fifth wave happened very quickly and many sick children needed to be hospitalised,” Ho said. “We needed to strike a balance between [serving] the needs of the sick children admitted and arranging to have them accompanied.”

Previously, only parents who tested positive along with their children were allowed to remain in the same ward, said the hospital official. A total of 57 children 11 years old or below remained in hospital as of midnight on Tuesday. Two children aged under three and six under 12 have died with Covid-19 during the fifth wave.

Covid-19 children family mask
A family photographed in Ocean Park. Photo: GovHK.

Government Covid-19 data indicates that 160 toddlers under three years of age were hospitalised on March 6, three days after infections peaked.

International criticism

The city’s public hospital system last month faced criticism for separating children as young as a few months old from their parents after contracting Covid-19.

The US government issued a warning against travelling to the city, citing the risk of citizens being separated from their children if they tested positive for Covid-19. The UK and the Australian consulates in Hong Kong, meanwhile, raised their concerns in official statements.

During a press conference on Monday, lawmakers Ambrose Lam and Stephen Wong described separating parents from children as a “tragedy” and urged the government to set clear guidelines on admitting parents along with their children, Ming Pao reported. Parents may be discouraged from reporting their infections if they feared being separated from their young children, Wong said.

Hong Kong has recorded 1,136,192 Covid-19 cases and 7,420 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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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.