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COVID digest: Hong Kong hospitals struggle with new cases

February 19, 2022

Authorities in Hong Kong have called in building teams to construct isolation units as hospitals there grapple with a new spike in cases. Meanwhile, Australia is opening to tourists once again. DW has the latest.

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Patients seen lying on hospital beds at the open area outside Caritas Medical Centre
Some patients were seen lying on hospital beds outdoors earlier this week in Hong KongImage: Dominic Chiu/SOPA Images/ZUMA/picture alliance

Hong Kong reported more than 6,000 confirmed cases for a second day in succession with 15 coronavirus deaths in a surge that authorities say is overwhelming hospitals.

The territory's government on Saturday announced plans to have construction crews from mainland China build isolation units with 10,000 beds to prevent overcrowding.

The chief executive of Hong Kong's Hospital Authority, Tony Ko, apologized on Saturday after some patients were forced to wait outdoors.

There were 6,063 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, raising the territory's total to 46,763.

While that was down slightly from Thursday's 6,116 it is still one of Hong Kong's highest daily totals. The territory has tightened travel and business controls as it tries to keep a lid on the uptick in cases.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Friday said an election for her post would be postponed by 6 weeks to May 8 because of "public health risks."

Beijing is increasingly worried that COVID-19 infections might reach its shores via illegal border crossings from Hong Kong. Media reports say some infected people from the territory have already crossed illegally and traveled further into the mainland.

Hong Kong sees record COVID cases

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:

Oceania

Australia recorded 43 COVID-linked deaths on Saturday, as the country prepares to welcome international tourists on Monday. Australia closed its borders in March 2020, with strict travel restrictions staying in place for over a year and a half.

The gradual reopening began in November with Australians allowed in first, then international students and workers, and finally leisure travelers.

Asia

In Japan, Tokyo recorded 13,516 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday — up 1,751 from a week earlier, national broadcaster NHK reported.

That figure is the first daily rise from week-earlier levels since February 8.

Europe

Prosecutors in Germany believe a COVID-19 conspiracy led a man near Berlin to kill four members of his family and then himself last year.

The man and his wife's bodies were discovered along with those of his 3 children aged 10, 8 and 4 at their home in Brandenburg state in December.

A note found at the house indicated the man was afraid a forged coronavirus vaccination certificate would result in their children being taken away.

Chat messages showed the father had become radicalized by a COVID-19 conspiracy theory.

German leaders agree to 3-step plan to lift most pandemic restrictions

The country has recorded 189,105 new infections, taking the country’s tally to 13,445,094, according to the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute of infectious diseases. With 210 deaths reported, the total toll has risen to 121,202.

The United Kingdom reported 34,377 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 128 deaths. Positive cases have dropped by 24.6 percent when compared with the week before, and the death rate has also declined by 22.5 percent.

Italy reported 50,534 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, down from the 53,662 reported the day before. The country's health ministry said that deaths had also fallen from 314 to 252.

In total Italy has recorded 152,848 deaths linked to COVID since the start of the pandemic, while recording a total of 12.4 million cases.

Americas

United States President Joe Biden said the COVID-linked national emergency declared in March 2020 will extend beyond March 1 because of the ongoing risk posed by the coronavirus. 

The emergency was declared by former President Donald Trump nearly two years ago, freeing up to $50 billion (€44 billion) in federal aid.

"There remains a need to continue this national emergency," Biden said in a letter released by the White House.

Police arrested scores of demonstrators and towed away vehicles in Canada's besieged capital Ottawa on Friday. 

Trudeau uses emergency powers to end protest

A stream of trucks started leaving as the crackdown began, raising authorities' hopes of bringing the three-week protest against the country's COVID-19 restrictions to an end.

see,rc/dj (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)