Health officials 'ready for worst' if Omicron hits HK - RTHK
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Health officials 'ready for worst' if Omicron hits HK

2021-12-27 HKT 13:04
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  • Health officials 'ready for worst' if Omicron hits HK
Health officials said on Monday they're preparing for the worst if Hong Kong experiences an outbreak of Covid-19 powered by the highly transmissible Omicron variant – including putting 500 isolation beds on standby at the Asia WorldExpo.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said despite tight border control measures, there's a high risk of an Omicron outbreak in the community because more people are returning from overseas at a time when cases are surging around the world.

She said officials met before Christmas to discuss contingency plans, noting that the highly transmissible nature of the variant means the number of infections might surge quickly in case of a community outbreak.

"So we've discussed the prevention and response plan in the direction of our capacity. Of course it's our testing capacity, our quarantine facilities, isolation hospital facilities," Chan told reporters after inspecting Covid treatment facilities at North Lantau and Princess Margaret hospitals

"[We also discussed] what if Omicron really [has] an outbreak in Hong Kong, whether we need to tighten our social distancing measures and so on."

The minister sidestepped a question as to exactly what types of measures would be tightened, only noting that different levels of social distancing had been observed since the pandemic began.

The chairman of the Hospital Authority, Henry Fan, said officials hoped for the best but have prepared for the worst in case of a local outbreak.

"There are now about 900 beds in service [for Covid patients], caring for about 150 patients. If there's an outbreak, we plan to re-activate 500 beds at the community treatment facility at the Asia WorldExpo. That's about 500 extra beds for use," he said.

Fan said that even if that's not enough, there are about 1,100 isolation beds at different public hospitals, and another 600 available as "second-tier" beds for stable, recovering patients that could free up space for fresh cases.

Both Chan and Fan stressed the best way to prevent serious coronavirus infections is by getting vaccinated, saying people should get their jabs or booster shots as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the latest mobile vaccination centre – in a converted cargo container – will begin serving the public from Friday next week.

Civil service minister Patrick Nip, who's in charge of Hong Kong's vaccination drive, said on an RTHK programme that elderly people will find it easier to get into the centre because it has no stairs.