Health facilities in Hong Kong have been burdened by an “onslaught” of Covid cases, despite authorities maintaining a “zero Covid” policy, following a record rise in infection numbers driven by the Omicron variant.

Authorities in Hong Kong have observed mainland China’s policy of eradicating even the smallest outbreak with mass quarantine, tracking and ongoing social distancing measures since the pandemic started.

Yet the outbreak of the Omicron variant at the end of last year led to an accumulation of over 8,000 cases in a matter of weeks. In addition, researchers have cautioned that daily cases could surpass 25,000 by next month, reports Business Times.

Although compared to other major cities across the globe Hong Kong’s infection rate remains low, the city’s policy of hospitalising or quarantining even asymptomatic cases, has increased waiting times and filled up beds.

"The onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong and overwhelmed the city's capacity of handling," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement.

The soaring case numbers has increased waiting times "for admitting people who test positive to isolation facilities," she added.

However, on Sunday, hospitals in Hong Kong announced that people who have "stable or mild symptoms" are to stay at home. Yet Lam added that the government "will spare no effort to implement" the "zero Covid" strategy and that China will help Hong Kong to increase testing and quarantine resources.

The city has faced difficulty in encouraging the elderly population to have the vaccine, with just half of the over-70s having received the jab. The government has said on many occasions that the “zero Covid” policy is designed to allow more time for people to get vaccinated.

Last Friday, researchers warned Hong Kong could see as many as 28,000 daily infections by the end of March. By the end of 2021, there were just over 12,000 daily cases recorded.

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