Hong Kong has said farewell to the last batch of mainland Chinese medics who helped the city in fighting the fifth and deadliest wave of Covid-19 earlier this year.

Carrie Lam mainland medics Covd-19
Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

The Hong Kong government held a farewell ceremony on Thursday for more than 200 medical staff from across the border. They had worked in local community isolation facilities since March, when the city saw tens of thousands of daily Covid-19 infections and hundreds of deaths.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam thanked the central authorities and the government of Guangdong province for a “speedy response” to her government’s request for help and for sending a total of 391 people – from 25 medical institutions across the border – to meet Hong Kong’s “urgent needs.”

Carrie Lam mainland medics Covd-19
Mainland Chinese medics give Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam a hazmat suit with their signatures as a souvenir. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Mainland Chinese medics “fought side by side” with staff members from the Hospital Authority, the Hong Kong leader said, adding the two groups “quickly built tacit understanding and perfect teamwork.”

Lam said the assistance from Chinese medical workers “greatly enhanced” the Hospital Authority’s capacity to treat Covid-19 patients, with a focus on the elderly and those with chronic disease. It allowed public hospitals which were overstretched during the fifth wave to concentrate their manpower on treating more serious Covid-19 cases, she said.

“[The medics] joined the frontline to treat patients when Hong Kong’s pandemic situation was the most dire. This fully manifests the spirit of selflessness… and the sentiment of blood is thicker than water, which is really precious,” Lam said.

Made with Flourish

The division of labour between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese medics once sparked controversy, after a viral photo of a document appeared to show a list of duties assigned to mainland nurses, including changing patients’ diapers and emptying their urine bags.

mainland medics arrived in Hong Kong Covid
Medical workers from mainland China. Photo: GovHK.

Lam said at the time that the two teams had a consensus over their work duties and said “outsiders” should not evaluate the division of labour by simply looking at the document.

On Thursday, the chief executive said more than 1,200 Covid-19 patients were treated and discharged under the cooperation between Hong Kong and mainland medics.

The fifth wave of Covid-19 has receded from its peak in early March and Hong Kong would continue to curb any rebound in the local caseload and prevent imported infections, she said.

“We would not take it lightly… we will win this pandemic fight,” she said.

As of Wednesday, Hong Kong had reported more than 1.2 million Covid-19 infections and more than 9,300 deaths.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.