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Public estates, hotels to house Covid patients: CE

2022-02-15 HKT 12:34
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  • Public estates, hotels to house Covid patients: CE
Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday unveiled plans to house infected Covid-19 patients in newly built public housing flats and hotels, which can provide up to 13,000 units in total.

Speaking ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said the magnitude, pace and severity of the fifth wave of infections have outgrown Hong Kong's capacity, adding that the shortage of medical and isolation facilities is now the biggest bottleneck in the fight against the coronavirus.

To address the problem, the SAR leader said three new public housing blocks – including Blocks 1 and 7 of Queen's Hill Estate in Fanling, and Heng King House of Lai King Estate – will be converted into quarantine facilities.

Lam said around 3,000 flats will be available, adding that the arrangement will mirror what was done at the start of the pandemic two years ago, when Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan was temporarily turned into a quarantine site.

The CE added that the government is also looking into turning hotels into isolation facilities to provide up to 10,000 units – something she said she will personally discuss with the sector's representatives.

"My target is to get them to agree to a plan. It's not individual negotiations, which has been the modus operandi previously that we approached individual hotels one by one and to discuss the conditions with them one by one – that's not efficient anymore. So we will do a wholesale plan and require them to sign on the plan, so as to deliver a few thousand, up to 10,000 of the rooms within a very short period," she said.

"I do not want to use my power, but I do have power under Cap 599 to make a regulation to ask for their cooperation. I don't want to do that, I want to go down a cooperation model, in order to find more hotel rooms for the community isolation purposes."

Lam also pointed out that talks are underway with several universities to explore the feasibility of using student dormitories for isolation.

With a spike in infections pushing hospitals to the brink, the chief executive said there will soon be designated clinics to treat patients with milder symptoms, and the government is now discussing with the taxi industry about a plan to designate a specific fleet of taxis to take infected patients to the treatment venues.

Separately, Lam said 100 million rapid antigen test kits have been procured, and the first batch of supplies will be distributed to care home staff so that they can undergo testing every day, instead of every three days.

But despite the worsening outbreak, the CE ruled out the possibility of imposing a complete, city-wide lockdown.

"I would have to say it very clearly that we have no plans for any widespread city lockdown as you have seen in some of the other places," she said.

"As far as Hong Kong is concerned, we need to find our own way out of this epidemic, and so far, our measures to contain the spread of the disease remains a legitimate and a valid one."

Lam reiterated that her administration remains highly committed to its "dynamic clearance" goal, and said officials will implement policies and measures in a decisive and humane manner.