Covid patients in Hong Kong are sleeping in beds on the street as hospitals struggle with Omicron wave

Business Insider US
Dozens of patients in beds were seen outside the Caritas Medical Center in Hong Kong, amid a surge in infections in the city.
  • Hong Kong's hospitals are so overwhelmed that they no longer have room for new patients.
  • People with Covid-19 infections waiting to get admitted were seen lying in beds outside.
  • The spillover from hospitals continued well into Thursday, with some people being given thermal blankets while sleeping on the street.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

In some Hong Kong hospitals, the patient capacity has reached a breaking point, with patients at one medical center being treated on the street amid a massive and unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases on the island. 

Nowhere was this strain on the medical system more apparent than at Hong Kong's Caritas Medical Center. With no room left inside the hospital on Wednesday, staff members put patients in beds outside the building. 

Photos showing rows upon rows of beds outside the hospital went viral on social media on Thursday.

Patients were seen lying on beds outside the hospital, covered in blankets while being attended to by medical personnel clad in protective attire.

The images are especially shocking given that Hong Kong is one of the priciest places in the world to live. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Worldwide Cost of Living report for 2021, Hong Kong is the fifth most expensive place to live in the world. 

Photos taken by journalists based in Hong Kong showed lines of beds set up outside Caritas, with patients of various ages being left there well into the night. 

Some tents were also seen in the vicinity and appeared to be set up as temporary shelters to house more patients. 

The sight of people being treated in beds outside the hospital has prompted the local authorities to call on property tycoons to free up some 10,000 rooms in hotels to isolate COVID-19 positive cases.

Other photos from the scene outside the Caritas Medical Center on February 16 showed people huddled under thermal blankets while waiting to be attended to. 

Representatives for Caritas Medical Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

The island is currently grappling with the fifth wave of Covid-19 infections. On February 17, Hong Kong reported 6,116 Covid-19 infections on the island. In the seven-day period from February 11 to February 17, there was an average of 2,611 daily cases, a massive leap from the previous six-day period — from February 4 to February 10 — when the city saw an average of 601 daily cases. 

People were seen huddled up in thermal blankets and waiting to be treated at the Caritas Medical Center.

This unprecedented surge in infections might have caught the Hong Kong healthcare system — used to dealing with far fewer cases due to the city's Covid zero approach — by surprise. On February 15, the island's Chief Executive Carrie Lam admitted that the island's emergency medical services were being overwhelmed by the caseload, per the AP

"So far, our measures to contain the spread of the disease remain legitimate and valid," Lam said to reporters. "The problem we are facing is given the magnitude, the pace of, and the severity of this fifth wave," she said, "It has outgrown our capacity."

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has instructed the Hong Kong government to make controlling the Covid-19 pandemic the city's "overriding task."

Hong Kong is now planning to mass-test its residents, even as quarantine facilities reach full capacity, per Reuters. The local authorities have also called in assistance from the city's property tycoons, and asked them to open up some 10,000 unoccupied hotel rooms to isolate Covid-19 patients and close contacts. 

Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.

Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo