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HK sees new COVID-19 spike as mainland help sought

By GU MENGYAN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-27 07:54
An elderly woman who is a resident of The Salvation Army Lung Hang Residence for Senior Citizens is evacuated from the nursing home on Friday by Centre for Health Protection medical workers after a cook and a cleaning staff member at the home in Hong Kong contracted the coronavirus. KIN CHEUNG/AP

Hong Kong reported 128 new coronavirus cases-103 locally transmitted-on Sunday, the fifth consecutive day of a three-digit spike in cases.

The city also announced tougher rules against the pandemic and sought the central government's help in its battle against COVID-19.

The overall case tally stood at 2,633, with 18 deaths. Over 100 COVID-19 patients were awaiting admission to hospitals, whose capacity was under pressure from the case load, according to Hong Kong's Hospital Authority.

In an attempt to plug a potential hole in transmission control, the Hong Kong government announced on Sunday that starting Wednesday, passenger ships and vessels without cargo trade in Hong Kong would not be allowed to change their crews in the city until the outbreak is under control.

Crew members will also be required to obtain proof that they have tested negative for the virus within 48 hours before flying to the city, and they must directly report to their ships without lingering in urban areas.

The decision came shortly before the city recorded 25 imported cases on Sunday, including eight seafarers arriving from overseas. At least 12 other sailors had been confirmed as being infected over the past week. Multiple health experts have warned that unrestricted sea crew changes at the city's port could be a source of the ongoing third wave of outbreak.

In light of the city's overstretched public health system, two local political organizations-the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress and the Federation of Trade Unions met with the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Saturday, seeking the central government's help for Hong Kong in the battle.

DAB Chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king said that the central government attached great importance to the health of Hong Kong people. It would therefore provide all necessary support for the SAR's fight against the epidemic, including medical supplies, testing and retrofitting of the AsiaWorld-Expo into a "mobile cabin hospital".

Also on Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in a statement that the central government has worked hard to care for and support the people of Hong Kong during the epidemic. The latest step was an announcement to help enhance the testing capability and convert the Expo exhibition center into a makeshift hospital at her request, she said.

Lam dismissed rumors that the mainland offered assistance in order to help it to collect Hong Kong people's personal data, and she slammed negative comments about the central government's support and assistance for the Hong Kong SAR, saying the remarks were aimed at "damaging the relationship between the central authorities and the HKSAR".

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