Hong Kong books 20,000 hotel rooms for quarantine as COVID cases rise

HONG KONG, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Hong Kong has identified more than 20,000 hotel rooms for quarantined accommodation, leader Carrie Lam said on Friday, as property developers crowded in to show support for the center global financier as it battles an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

Lam said 21 hotels had expressed interest in turning their facilities into places of isolation, “far exceeding the government’s initial target of 7,000 to 10,000 rooms”.

Quarantine facilities in Hong Kong have reached capacity and hospital beds are more than 95% full as cases surge, with some patients, including the elderly, left on beds outside in cold and sometimes rainy weather.

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Global banks HSBC and Standard Chartered said some branches were closed on Friday after several employees were infected.

Daily infections in Hong Kong have risen 60-fold so far this month as the government battles to contain an outbreak. Chinese President Xi Jinping said the city’s “primary mission” was to stabilize and control the spread.

Hong Kong reported 3,629 new daily COVID-19 infections on Friday, with an additional 7,600 preliminary positive cases.

Authorities reported 10 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to more than 240, but still lower than other similar major cities.

The hospital authority said it aims to move all patients currently lying outside in open-air beds indoors by Friday evening ahead of an expected drop in temperature to around 10 degrees C (50 °F).

CK Asset Holdings, owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing, said it would provide more than 3,000 hotel rooms at four hotels. Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) (0016.HK) said it could supply 1,000 rooms. The two developers said they would run a government promotional video about vaccine passports in its major malls.

New World Development (0017.HK) said it plans to provide around 700 rooms, while Henderson Land Development (0012.HK) said its founding family Lee would donate HK$10 million ($1.3 million dollars) to send anti-epidemic materials to nursing homes, among others.

Reuters reported in September that Beijing had given powerful real estate moguls in the global financial center a new mandate, telling them to devote resources and influence to supporting Beijing’s interests. Read more

The government said the Dorsett Tsuen Wan hotel in the northern New Territories region of the city would provide accommodation from Friday to people who tested positive for COVID-19 but had no or mild symptoms.


Lam on Thursday welcomed the arrival of several health experts from mainland China to help fight the outbreak and said citywide testing for the virus was being considered.

Local media quoted her as saying 300,000 tests could be carried out daily by the end of this month. The city now has capacity for around 200,000 tests.

China is stepping up to help boost capacity, with mobile test vehicles from the mainland arriving in Hong Kong this week.

Residents had mixed views on a possible mass testing plan, with some saying it could help eradicate the virus while others said it wouldn’t help.

“If the government wants to test all citizens, there will be a long queue like there is now. The wait…is a big problem for the elderly or those who are not in good health “said Kenneth Liu, 47.

China previously helped Hong Kong roll out a voluntary mass testing program in 2020.

The mainland will ensure a steady supply of fresh food with a new waterway for food supply from Guangdong to Hong Kong from Friday night, said Luo Huining, head of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

The move comes after vegetable shortages last week due to several cross-border drivers testing positive for the virus.

A pig slaughterhouse near the border was also closed after authorities found 89 positive cases.

($1 = HK$7.7987)

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Reporting by Joyce Zhou, Clare Jim, Twinnie Siu, Marius Zaharia in Hong Kong and Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Written by Anne Marie Roantree and Farah Master; Editing by Stephen Coates, Gerry Doyle and Kim Coghill

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