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Virus expert sounds alarm over HK's packed hospitals

2020-01-21 HKT 12:58
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  • Yuen Kwok-yung is a member of a Beijing-appointed expert panel on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. File photo: RTHK
    Yuen Kwok-yung is a member of a Beijing-appointed expert panel on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. File photo: RTHK
Top microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said on Tuesday that the overcrowding in Hong Kong's public hospitals are his top concern should the mainland's outbreak of a deadly new Sars-like virus strike the city.

The infectious disease professor from the University of Hong Kong was speaking after returning from Wuhan where he had been to learn more about the outbreak, as part of an expert panel advising the mainland's National Health Commission.

With bed occupancy rates often standing above 100 percent during flu seasons, he said overcrowding would be a major problem if there was a confirmed case of the new virus in the SAR.

But he stressed that Hong Kong's defences have been strong so far, with the SAR and the mainland having significantly improved their preventative measures and disease control work in the past decade or so.

Yuen said some patients in Wuhan, who had not been obviously sick, were confirmed to have the new virus after they were tested because family members were showing symptoms. He said one such case was in Shenzhen.

He also advised Hong Kong people not to travel to Wuhan at this time unless absolutely necessary.

The scientist leading the Beijing-appointed expert panel, Zhong Nanshan, warned during a television interview on Monday that the coronavirus can be passed from person to person.

Zhong, who helped China fight Sars in 2003, said there are patients in Guangdong who caught the new virus from family members who had recently been in Wuhan.

He called for vigilance, noting there is still much to be learnt about the new virus, like which animal has passed it to humans.