Hong Kong hotels may house mild Covid cases as hospitals fill up


(Bloomberg) – Hong Kong hotels may soon be registering asymptomatic people infected with Covid-19, as the city’s bloated outbreak means its hospitals and virus containment facilities have rapidly reached capacity.

Risks would be low for hotels, said Girish Jhunjhnuwala, managing director of Ovolo Group Ltd., as patients would be confined to their rooms and subjected to frequent Covid tests, he said in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday. TV.

The change reflects the city’s deterioration in weeks, after the Asian financial hub posted more than 1,000 daily cases for the first time on Wednesday. Hospitals, which often reach capacity in winter even before Covid-19 emerges, are struggling as the city continues its policy of trying to isolate anyone who tests positive for the virus.

Jhunjhnuwala said he heard that one or two hotels had converted rooms for use by asymptomatic patients. Authorities are compiling lists of hotels where patients could be placed, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people. Details will be announced once suitable properties have been found, the newspaper said. Home isolation of these patients would be the last resort.

The change carries a risk, as transmission of the virus occurred in quarantine hotels as they housed people who tested negative for the virus before flying to Hong Kong. There aren’t many other options. The city’s public health infrastructure is increasingly strained by its Covid-Zero policy, which requires thousands of patients and their close contacts to be sent to isolation facilities in public hospitals or put on quarantined to contain the outbreak.

Authorities are already showing signs of losing control of the situation, urging residents with mild Covid-like symptoms to go to a private doctor to get tested – a reversal from their previous recommendation that those who are tested positive with a home kit should go to public hospitals for official diagnosis. They have also converted the government-run quarantine camp known as Penny’s Bay, originally used to house close contacts of those infected, into an isolation facility for those carrying the virus.

The large number of cases appearing every day in Hong Kong already exceeds these adjustments. Hospital isolation rooms and beds are nearly 90% full, and it could take days for people who test positive at home to be admitted to public hospitals, health officials said on Wednesday. . They asked people to stay calm and stay home until a bed can be found for them.

Hotels, which previously relied on quarantine packages for tourists to keep their businesses afloat amid some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions, have suffered a major blow after the government last month banned flights from eight countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, to eradicate the virus. The city also closed some travel routes if there were too many infected people arriving on those flights.

Ovolo’s two quarantine hotels saw their occupancy rates halved to 45% after the ban, Jhunjhnuwala said.

“It has put a damper on quarantine hotels,” he said, as affected countries are among the biggest sources of returning travelers to Hong Kong.

©2022 Bloomberg LP

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