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“Sick And Tired” – Elderly Patients Crowd Makeshift Tents As Hong Kong Hospitals Overrun

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

For years, Hong Kong has been praised as an oasis from COVID-19 – that is, until very recently.

Hong Kong’s stringent measures to combat the crisis have emerged only recently, as COVID cases have surged, crowding the city’s hospitals and paralyzing parts of the city’s critical workforce. New arrivals hoping to visit the city will be forced to quarantine for a week or two (especially if they’re from the US or UK).

Thanks in part to the city’s mandatory hospitalization policy for anybody and everybody who tests positive, it looks like the city government is resorting to a handful of new tactics, some of which are popular on the mainland: they include a testing “blitz” that will help governments “clear” large numbers of people, per Bloomberg.

The new policies are necessary to combat what has become a public relations nightmare for the city:

Unfortunately for Hong Kongers, the city’s intensely overcrowded hospitals have produced many heartbreaking images: elderly patients lying on gurneys in the hallways (and in some cases, outdoors outside the hospital). As the AFP reports, both nurses and patients are “sick and tired” of the status quo.

Just ask Ting Chan, a nurse in the city who has been working on the front lines of the pandemic since its beginning.

Ting Chan has seen Hong Kong’s pandemic situation lurch from over-the-top caution to outright chaos.

A nurse at one of the city’s public hospitals, she’s been a ground-level participant in the strict Covid Zero strategy that has kept the financial hub largely free of the virus for the past two years. Key to that has been Hong Kong’s mandatory hospitalization of all Covid-19 cases, regardless of whether they are mildly ill or even asymptomatic. While that’s helped keep the total death toll at a little over 200 for the entire pandemic, those elaborate defenses have collapsed in the face of the highly-transmissible omicron variant.

Hong Kong has reported 6,116 cases logged on Thursday during the city’s latest outbreak. But with just 17 COVID patients classed as in ‘critical’ condition on Wednesday, hospitals are already overwhelmed and the health infrastructure is crumbling, according to Bloomberg. Put another way, Hong Kong has “squandered” a great lead on the COvIDi

“We never expected things to end up like this,” Chan said.

Neither, it seems, did Hong Kong’s most senior officials.

The shuttered borders and weeks-long traveler quarantines that are the hallmark of China’s Covid Zero approach bought Hong Kong time to prepare, to watch and learn as other world capitals struggled with imploding outbreaks. Yet the government seemed to have no Plan B as omicron cases quickly scaled its hard-core virus controls.

So now, President Xi is demanding that all 7.5M Hong Kongers must be tested.

President Xi Jinping has called for the city of about 7.5 million people to take “all necessary measures” to contain Covid, as the widening outbreak – which came after months of being virus-free — undermines China’s zero-tolerance approach to keeping the pathogen out. While other parts of the world start to live alongside Covid, Beijing is continuing to pursue elimination, including testing as a key tool in an arsenal that also includes effectively closed borders and lengthy mandatory quarantines. 

According to Bloomberg, Hong Kong’s leaders are being forced to make changes “on the fly” to make up for the fact that they didn’t prepare by readying more COVID quarantine facilities.

Government advisers and health experts who spoke to Bloomberg News say officials failed to prepare for the virus’s inevitable infiltration by increasing quarantine facilities, isolation wards and hospital capacity during the period of calm over the last year. Though examples of how omicron surges exponentially have been unfolding across the world since last November, Hong Kong seemed to have paid little attention.

Now, faced with no choice but to double down on the zero-tolerance strategy pushed by Beijing, they’re being forced to change policies on the fly and take ad-hoc measures in the middle of a raging outbreak.

Sound familiar?

This isn’t helping the city’s government burnish its already badly damaged credibility.

The chaos of the current outbreak – with hospitals overwhelmed and elderly patients housed in makeshift tents outside – has undermined already-damaged public confidence in the Hong Kong government’s abilities following unprecedented unrest in 2019, says Joseph Cheng, a retired political science professor and veteran democracy activist. Many may be dissuaded to participate in the testing drive by the long queues already being seen at testing sites, he said.

“There’s a lot of worry about the lack of competence, the lack of preparation of this government – there’s a lack of hospital beds, and people are having to wait up for days to be contacted if they’re positive,” said Cheng, who left the city for Australia when China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020, adding that “the majority of the people are willing to cooperate.”

“They are pragmatic, they are practical,” he continued. “If tests are made compulsory, they’ll be willing to accept that. They just want to be able to go back to work. Hong Kong people will grumble a lot, but most people will still go and queue up.”

Aside from the mass testing (for which they will receive assistance from the mainland), authorities have another half-baked plan that involves securing 10K hotel rooms to hold the ill and those under quarantine, per Reuters.

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