Expert proposes new Wuhan-style field hospital - RTHK
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Expert proposes new Wuhan-style field hospital

2020-03-31 HKT 13:24
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  • University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung says police should stand guard over a new mobile cabin hospital that would treat stable Covid-19 patients. File Photo: RTHK.
    University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung says police should stand guard over a new mobile cabin hospital that would treat stable Covid-19 patients. File Photo: RTHK.
Hong Kong University microbiologist Ho Pak-leung on Tuesday urged the government to build a Wuhan-style field hospital as soon as possible, to free up isolation beds in hospitals amid a surge in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.

Doctors have been warning that isolation beds could run out within a week if the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise. Authorities in Wuhan set up more than a dozen field hospitals during the height of the outbreak in the central mainland city, but have since shut them all down after apparently bringing the outbreak under control.

Ho said Hong Kong should follow its example, and isolate patients who are in a stable condition in a “mobile cabin hospital” for treatment.

He added that the facility should be guarded by police to prevent patients from escaping and spreading the virus.

He told an online radio show that it was important for any new field hospital to practice strict infection controls, such as requiring all patients to wear masks, and stopping them from leaving until all their test results come back negative.

Ho said that it could be dangerous to allow patients – even if they’re in a stable condition – to return home for isolation.

That position puts him at odds with another prominent infectious diseases expert from HKU, Malik Peiris, who suggests that people should be sent home even if they still carry the virus – in very low amounts.

Peiris noted that PCR tests commonly used to diagnose Covid-19 can detect even very low levels of the virus, from patients who may no longer be able to actually infect any other people.

He cited a German study that found people kept testing positive for the virus in PCR tests, even though scientists weren’t able to culture the virus at all.

“One of the big questions really right now is to resolve this question of infectivity because there’s an urgency to be able to discharge patients home even before their PCR becomes negative,” Pieris said.

“But still, there is still no absolute guideline on how we can do that”, he added.

Ho, meanwhile, also urged people to order takeaway meals instead of dining at restaurants, warning that dining could could expose them to a higher risk of infection.

He said research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that droplets propelled by coughs and sneezes can travel up to eight metres in humid conditions.

He said people who do dine in should avoid talking during their meals and after they remove their face masks.