Social Welfare Department workers prepare beds on Monday at Shek Kip Mei Park Sports Center in Hong Kong for elderly patients. The center will be used as a makeshift facility to provide care for up to 180 elderly patients. （Photo provided to China Daily）
City official thanks central government for rapid building of makeshift facility
A makeshift hospital in Tsing Yi, Hong Kong for COVID-19 patients began operation on Tuesday after it was handed over to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on the same day.
The hospital, built in a week, has 3,900 isolation beds for patients with mild symptoms or who are asymptomatic. It is the first of nine such facilities to be built with the help of the central government as the city battles its fifth coronavirus outbreak.
After inspecting the site, Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu thanked the central government for the "landmark" community isolation and treatment facility.
Describing the construction and handing over of the hospital in such a short time as a "miracle", Lee said it will help the city separate infected people from healthy residents and lower the risk of transmission.
The temporary hospital is made of prefabricated containers, with three beds per unit. There are also public toilets and showers.
The facility will be managed by the Security Bureau and medical workers will be on hand to care for patients. In total, the nine projects will add 50,000 beds for isolation and treatment of patients.
The government also announced on Tuesday it will open five more clinics to treat COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, in addition to the nine clinics currently in operation. Shek Kip Mei Park Sports Center will also be used as a facility to provide care for 180 elderly patients referred by hospitals. From Wednesday, the North Lantau Hospital has been designated to handle COVID patients.
The third team of mainland epidemiologists led by Liang Wannian, head of the National Health Commission's COVID-19 leading task force, began its work in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The five-member team met with two groups of Hong Kong health officials and exchanged views on the challenges posed by the outbreak, as well as the mainland's experience in tackling the pandemic.
Expressing gratitude for the delegation's visit, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said: "The two meetings today were very thorough and constructive. In the coming few days, we will continue to explore strategies and measures to put the fifth wave of the epidemic situation under control based on the initial recommendations suggested by the experts."
Hong Kong health authorities reported 32,597 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and a record 117 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Lee said the government is ironing out the details of planned mandatory testing in March and will inform residents once decisions are made to allow them enough time to prepare.
There is also no need to worry about food and daily necessities as the city has enough supplies, he said.
Supplies of fresh food from the mainland had largely returned to normal on Monday, official data showed.
About 2,100 metric tons of vegetables were shipped from the mainland, about 90 percent of the average daily supply from the mainland. Chilled meat deliveries from the mainland were 1.4 times more than the usual level.
Yuen Tai Trading, a major supplier of canned food in Hong Kong, said it has enough in reserve for the next 10 weeks, two weeks more than its usual stock.
The Hong Kong SAR government also announced on Tuesday it will hire 1,000 caregivers from the mainland to work at nursing homes hit hard by infections.
Law Chi-kwong, secretary for labour and welfare, said infections were detected in over half the city's 1,000 residential care homes and in some nursing homes.
The mainland caregivers, hired on a three-month contract, will be paid up to HK$31,000($3,966) per month. The caregivers will arrive in groups and will undergo three-day of training to take care of the elderly at quarantine facilities and care centers.
Law said he hoped the first group would be ready to come in two to three days.