Hong Kong’s hospitals are so full from a COVID outbreak they’re treating patients outside—and a cold snap is coming

February 17, 2022, 8:29 AM UTC

Hong Kong hospitals are treating patients outside as a record surge in coronavirus cases pushes facilities beyond capacity and throws the city’s COVID Zero strategy into disarray.

About a dozen elderly residents, bundled up under blankets, were forced to wait on hospital beds outside the Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po, one of the city’s poorest districts, on Wednesday. Another group of people, including small children, sat in blue isolation tents across the road as they waited to be assessed by medical staff.

While four-digit daily case numbers pale in comparison to global peers, the city had previously hospitalized all infected people as a rule. That kept Hong Kong largely virus-free for the last two years, but this outbreak has led to thousands of mildly ill or asymptomatic people thronging emergency units. The influx has prompted policy changes including a plea from officials for those with COVID to stay home unless seriously sick.

Health authorities have said they’re aware of people waiting outside hospitals and are looking for other facilities they can use. The city reported 4,285 new infections on Wednesday and there were 16 patients in a critical condition.

There’s pressure to move fast, with a cold front set to sweep through Hong Kong over the weekend. Temperatures are forecast to fall to about 10 degrees Celsius, or lower in some parts, prompting concerns about the additional risk to the health of vulnerable residents forced to wait outside.

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