KEY POINTS

  • Hong Kong prepares for COVID-19 3rd wave with help from Mainland China
  • Mainland Chinese experts are now deployed to the city to aid in coronavirus testing capacity
  • At least 3 facilities will be built to accommodate a growing number of cases

Hong Kong and mainland China are teaming up to build at least two temporary hospitals for COVID-19 patients. This will add about 2,400 beds to the existing facilities in anticipation of a third wave of the coronavirus in the former British colony.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports that the plans include increasing COVID-19 testing by a factor of 10 that is certain to bolster the city's response to the large increase in new cases it has experienced over the last 12 days, a streak that ended Monday.

Based on Worldometer present statistic tracking, Hong Kong has tallied 3,592 (0.6%) cases from the 593,962 tests conducted. By comparison, the U.S. percentage is about 8.0% with over 61 million Americans tested. The Hong Kong death count stands at a mere 38.

Experience with the disease is showing that the keys to keeping the pandemic in check are the now-familiar measures like social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, and limiting the number of people at social gatherings along with personal measures like washing hands and diligent cleaning of surfaces.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government announced on Aug. 3 that COVID-19 measures set to expire the next day would continue for another week. This includes closure of more than a dozen types of establishments and a ban on restaurant dine-in services at night along with the previously mentioned measures.

Lam is also seeking help from the Chinese mainland to carry out the plans for the expanded testing and screening and to help build the makeshift hospitals. A team of seven experts arrived on Sunday while another 60 people were expected to follow, including six to help with the design and development of makeshift hospitals. The SCMP said that multiple sources had given information that at least three facilities would be built using the expertise of the Chinese experts.

The teams will first focus on expanding facilities for patients showing mild symptoms and then move on to meet the needs of those more severely affected. The most innovative work by the Chinese workers will be in efforts to boost the city’s COVID-19 testing capacity.

The leader of the expert team, Yu Dewen — a member of Guangdong province’s health commission — said they aim to increase the testing capacity to 200,000 tests a day from the current 20,000 to 30,000 by using community nucleic acid testing.

They would review the work processes and equipment of three labs, Shenzhen-headquartered BGI, Macau’s China Inspection Company, and Hong Kong-based Prenetics as well as setting up test stations in the city’s 18 districts.

Other experts added their comments to the SCMP article. Dr. Ho Pak-leung, an infectious disease expert from the University of Hong Kong said, “The whole [testing] process has to be faster than the spread of the virus … with the help of the mainland, the government can set up more than 100 or 200 street testing stations, while it can also help those exempted from quarantine measures to take the tests.”

Professor David Hui Shu-cheong of Chinese University said testing for high-risk groups such as minibus and bus drivers, supermarket staff, especially cashiers, and residents of certain districts could be prioritized

He also supported more testing to tackle the third wave of cases and commented on previous oversights. He said, “A large part of it (the drop in cases on Monday) is because the government closed the loophole of a lack of testing and quarantine for sea crews and aircrew members.”  He called closing the loophole “good news”.

Hong Kong opened a new emergency hospital as record daily caseloads overwhelm health services Hong Kong opened a new emergency hospital as record daily caseloads overwhelm health services Photo: AFP / ISAAC LAWRENCE