Expert says plan now for virus deluge

Local | Jane Cheung 13 Mar 2020

Hong Kong should plan on building temporary clinics or hospitals like in Wuhan in case the Covid-19 crisis overwhelms the health system, infectious diseases expert Leung Chi-chiu said.

Leung, chairman of the advisory committee on communicable diseases at the Hong Kong Medical Association, said the government should help with sites for temporary hospitals. And, when necessary, hospitals or isolation camps should be adapted into virus treatment centers.

"The situation has already gone haywire in Europe and the United States," he said. "We need to brace ourselves for large-scale outbreaks too."

On visitor restrictions, Leung said: "Even though we don't limit travelers from the whole of the United States we should bar entry from some states with more serious outbreaks to prevent import of cases to Hong Kong."

And Leung echoed the government call for people not to travel abroad unless strictly necessary.

"Even if you don't go to a place with an outbreak you can't guarantee that none of the other passengers on flights are from such regions. The risk is high."

Respiratory expert David Hui Shu-cheong from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said SAR authorities must be on alert for people who are infected arriving from developing countries, saying the number of cases there could be underestimated.

"These countries have limited resources and the number of confirmed cases cannot reflect the actual situation," he said.

Hui cited India and Egypt as examples, with each reporting several dozen confirmed patients. But the SAR has already seen people who are infected coming in from those nations.

He noted nine Hongkongers - four couples and a guide - arriving back from an Egypt tour were this week all confirmed to have contracted Covid-19. And they could have acquired the virus from the same source in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Hospital Authority said an analysis of over 100 confirmed cases in the SAR found most patients suffered from fever and coughs, and around 10 percent would develop serious conditions.

And all of the patients showed signs of pneumonia because their lungs "look like frosted glass" in scans.

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