Xi warns Hong Kong leader, Omicron patient to be treated in open space

Xi warns Hong Kong leader, Omicron patient to be treated in open space

Chinese President Xi Jinping reminded Hong Kong leaders that their "main mission" is to stabilize and control the worsening Covid-19 outbreak.

Xi Jinping's warning came as the wave of coronavirus infections in Hong Kong escalated rapidly, overwhelming authorities.

Ummatimes - Dozens of patients were treated in emergency open air spaces outside the medical center on Tuesday as some hospitals were operating at more than 100 percent capacity.

More than 12,000 infected patients are waiting to be hospitalized, local broadcaster Cable reported on Wednesday, February 16, 2022.

The directive increased pressure on Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam a day after she said her government's response to the outbreak was unsatisfactory, with hospitals and medical staff unable to cope.

Xi instructed Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng to convey to Lam his "concern about the pandemic situation" and his concern for the local population, according to front-page stories in the Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao newspapers.

Health authorities in the global financial hub reported a record 1,619 new confirmed infections on Tuesday, bringing the positive cases to 5,400. The number of daily cases is up 20 times from the level in early February, and is likely to continue to worsen.

Broadcaster TVB said at least 4,285 new infections were expected to be reported on Wednesday, more than double the previous record, and there were 3,000 positive tests.

Xi said the government "should mobilize all forces and resources to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of the Hong Kong people and ensure the stability of society," according to the newspaper.

Both media outlets, which usually support Beijing's interests in Hong Kong, said Xi made the remarks recently but did not specify where he spoke.

Local authorities should "firmly implement Xi's instructions," the newspaper said, adding that Beijing had established a cooperation mechanism to ensure coordination.

Lam, who has not confirmed whether she will run again for a five-year term as head of the Chinese-ruled city, said she "couldn't preclude" the possibility of postponing the chief executive election next month.

No heavyweight contenders have yet declared their candidacy, a highly unusual situation just five weeks before the election.

Hong Kong has adopted the same 'zero dynamic' coronavirus strategy as mainland China to suppress all outbreaks.

But the speed with which the highly contagious variant of the Omicron virus has spread has baffled authorities, with Lam saying they can no longer follow the testing and isolation mandate.

China said it would help the city increase testing, treatment and quarantine capacity, and secure resources from rapid antigen kits and protective gear to fresh vegetables.

Next: Citizens are getting tired of restrictions

Hong Kong has recorded about 26,000 infections since the start of the pandemic, including more than 200 deaths, far fewer than other major cities of similar size.

However, medical experts have warned cases could jump to 28,000 daily by the end of March amid concerns about a high level of vaccine doubt among parents.

For Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents, the spike in cases comes amid growing exhaustion with restrictions aimed at protecting them from the pandemic.

The border has been effectively closed for about two years, turning a global travel and business hub into one of the world's most isolated megacities.

Places of churches, pubs, schools and gyms remain closed with public gatherings of more than two people prohibited. Dining in restaurants is not allowed after 18:00, while most people work from home.

A number of businesses were forced to close due to ongoing restrictions including two cinemas closing this week. Industry executives said many businesses were unable to continue with the financial buffers that had been exhausted by the shutdowns of the past two years and anti-government protests in 2019.