Hong Kong leader warns hospital system could collapse as city on edge of ‘large-scale’ epidemic

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Hong Kong adopted its “most stringent” measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus on Wednesday, as chief executive Carrie Lam warned of a possible “large-scale” epidemic.

The city has imposed face masks, banned catering services at restaurants and public gatherings of more than two people as cases continue to rise. Gyms, bars and lounges have also been closed.

“We are on the brink of a large-scale community epidemic, which could lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost the lives, especially for the elderly,” Lam said in a video statement Tuesday evening.

As the city averaged less than 10 new cases a day less than a month ago and was able to avoid a lockdown due to restrictions on travel from China and contact tracing, health officials have reported a record 145 cases on Monday and 106 on Tuesday. The city now frequently reports more than 100 cases per day, according to BBC News.

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“I ask that you strictly follow social distancing measures and stay home as much as possible,” Lam added. “If we stand united and work together, we can quell this epidemic again.” She added that the central government was working to help Hong Kong improve its testing capabilities.

The increase in the number of cases has coincided with the relaxation of social distancing restrictions. Jin Dongyan, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, speculated that the “border procedures” have led to the increase in cases.

“This is probably because there were loopholes in border procedures in Hong Kong, and some overseas patients may have brought the virus to communities, resulting in current local transmission,” Jin told the Global Times earlier this month.

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Hong Kong has reported a total of 2,884 cases and 23 deaths, according to the BBC and CNBC.

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