By Clare Jim and Twinnie Siu
HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong reported 6,063 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, as the the city’s government made more plans for isolation facilities to take some strain off a healthcare system as infections have risen by more than 60 times since the month began.
City leader Carrie Lam said on Saturday the government will build 10,000 isolation units in two new community facilities, with the help of China.
Some 114 Chinese medical personnel arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday – the second batch that thas been sent from the mailand.
The first cargo ship carrying three tonnes of “choy sum”, or Chinese cabbage, arrived in Hong Kong early on Saturday from Guangzhou, TVB reported, as mainland authorities try to restore vegetable supplies to the city after recent shortages caused by truck drivers testing positive.
Lam said on Friday that it would take up to three months to stabilise a surge in infections that has overwhelmed health facilities and forced the postponement of an upcoming leadership election.
The chief executive election, initially scheduled for March, will be postponed to May, adding to uncertainty about the former British colony’s future as Beijing imposes its rule.
The government is detailing plans for universal mandatory city testing, Lam said, while ruling out a city-wide lockdown.
Quarantine facilities have reached capacity and hospital beds were more than 95% full as cases spiral, with some patients, including elderly, left for prolonged periods this week on beds outside in chilly, wet weather.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who backs a “dynamic zero-COVID” strategy, has said fighting the virus was Hong Kong’s “over-riding mission”.
Hong Kong health authorities confirmed 6,063 new COVID-19 cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday versus Friday’s 3,629, with about an additional 7,400 preliminary positive cases compared with 7,600 the previous day.
The city has recorded more than 40,000 infections and less than 300 deaths since the pandemic started, far fewer than in other major cities. However some epidemiologists expect daily infections to approach 30,000 by the end of March.
On Friday, Lam said Hong Kong had identified more than 20,000 hotel rooms for quarantine accommodation, with property developers piling in to show support.
Henderson Land said it would provide rural land to build a makeshift hospital, while New World Development said it would offer a major convention centre to serve as a COVID-19 testing centre.
(Reporting By Clare Jim, Twinnie Siu and Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by William Mallard & Simon Cameron-Moore)