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Covid live: WHO says countries with high number of cases can shorten quarantine | World news

Hong Kong has identified more than 20,000 hotel rooms for quarantine accommodation, leader Carrie Lam said on Friday, as property developers piled in to show support as the global financial hub battles a surge in Covid cases.

Lam said 21 hotels had expressed interest in turning their facilities into isolation venues, exceeding “by a large margin the government’s original target of 7,000 to 10,000 rooms”.

Quarantine facilities in Hong Kong have reached capacity and hospital beds are more than 95% full as cases spiral, with some patients, including elderly, left on beds outside in chilly, sometimes rainy weather.

The moves come as Hong Kong authorities report new cases have multiplied 60 times so far this month, and after Chinese president Xi Jinping said the city’s “overriding mission” was to stabilise and control the outbreak.

Hong Kong is expected to report at least 3,600 new infections on Friday, with another 7,600 preliminary positive cases, local broadcaster TVB said, citing an unidentified source.

CK Asset Holdings, owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing, said it would provide more than 3,000 hotel rooms in four hotels. Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) said it could provide 1,000 rooms. Both developers said they would broadcast a government promotional video on vaccine passports in its major malls.

“President Xi Jinping’s important instructions to support Hong Kong’s fight against the epidemic, and mobilisation of relevant central departments to help Hong Kong, have given a confidence boost to all Hong Kong people,” SHKP Chairman Raymond Kwok said in a statement late on Thursday.

New World Development said it planned to provide about 700 rooms, while Henderson Land Development said its founding Lee family would donate HK$10 million ($1.3 million) to send anti-epidemic materials to elderly homes, among others.

Patients lie on hospital beds as they wait at a temporary makeshift treatment area outside Caritas Medical Centre on Friday 18 February. Hong Kong’s hospitals reached 90% capacity on Thursday and quarantine facilities were at their limit, authorities said, as the city struggles to snuff out a record number of new Covid cases by adhering to China’s “zero tolerance” strategy.

Patients lie on hospital beds as they wait at a temporary makeshift treatment area outside Caritas Medical Centre on Friday 18 February. Hong Kong’s hospitals reached 90% capacity on Thursday and quarantine facilities were at their limit, authorities said, as the city struggles to snuff out a record number of new Covid cases by adhering to China’s “zero tolerance” strategy. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

Reuters reported in September that Beijing had given a new mandate to the global financial hub’s powerful property tycoons, telling them to pour resources and influence into backing Beijing’s interests.

The government said the Dorsett Tsuen Wan hotel in the city’s northern New Territories region would provide accommodation starting on Friday for people who tested positive for Covid but had no or mild symptoms.

Carrie Lam greeted the arrival of several mainland Chinese health experts to help with the outbreak on Thursday and said citywide virus testing was being considered.

Local media cited her as saying 300,000 tests could be conducted daily by the end of this month. The city has capacity for around 200,000 tests now.

China is ramping up to help boost capacity, with mobile testing vehicles from the mainland arriving in Hong Kong this week.

Residents had mixed opinions on a potential mass testing plan, with some saying it could help stamp out the virus while others said it would not help.

“If the government wants to test citizens altogether, there will be a long queue as it is now. Waiting… is a big problem for the elderly or those who are not in good health,” said Kenneth Liu, 47.

China previously helped Hong Kong roll out a voluntary mass testing programme in 2020.

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