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Hong Kong Hospitals Placing Body Bags Under Patients’ Beds as COVID-19 Surges Out of Control

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: March 10, 2022
People lie in hospital beds with temperatures falling at nighttime outside the Caritas Medical Centre in Hong Kong on February 16, 2022, as hospitals become overwhelmed with the city facing its worst coronavirus wave to date. (Image: PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

There are no funeral ceremonies for some of the hundreds of Hong Kong residents dying everyday due to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases. Their bodies are instead sealed in plastic bags and then quickly cremated, freeing up space at the morgue for more arrivals. According to a report by NTD Television, the death rate is soaring exponentially and Hong Kong’s medical system is now on the verge of collapse.

The report also added that one in 10 percent of the city’s law enforcement personnel have been infected.

The number of frontline workers who have had to quarantine after being exposed to the virus jumped from 300 nearly two weeks ago to more than 3,000. It was also reported that makeshift quarantine sites were established in the Pat Heung Juvenile Police Call Center and the Tung Tze Police Holiday Home as more and more police officers tested positive. 

The daily death toll from COVID-19 on March 6 was reported at 233. Three days later, however, 291 people reportedly died from the virus in a single day according to data from Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority Ordinance — a statutory body that manages all public hospitals in the city.  

As the number of infected people continued to increase in the past week, the authorities set up an online system on March 7 to record the results of rapid testing administered by residents themselves in an effort to curb further spread of the virus. 

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On March 9, authorities revealed that Hong Kong had 25,991 confirmed new cases of COVID-19, with an additional 32,766 suspected positive cases. 

In the past week, the death rate in Hong Kong has tripled, giving it the highest COVID-19 death count of any developed area in the world. As of March 6, the average number of deaths per million was 25.5 in Hong Kong, 4.28 in the United States, 2.89 in South Korea, 1.86 in Singapore, and 1.68 in Japan.

COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities covered up the initial outbreak for weeks, facilitating its global spread. 

A graph showing the exponential rise of recent COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong. (Image: via Twitter/Screenshot)

Hong Kong’s once highly praised medical system on the verge of collapse

A physician working in a public hospital in Hong Kong described the harrowing epidemic situation in a Facebook post. 

The doctor, surnamed Leung, described how he had worked in a hospital in India for five weeks in 2010. However, the current situation in Hong Kong’s medical facilities is far worse than that of anything he’d seen in India.

While his hospital receives hundreds of new COVID-19 patients every day, most are elderly people from nursing homes. Due to a shortage of hospital beds, many of them could only lay on foldable stretchers a few centimeters above the ground. Once the stretchers ran out, hospital staff had no choice but to place hundreds of patients in hospital corridors because there simply wasn’t enough room. 

“If you’re not careful, you can easily end up stepping on them,” said Dr. Leung as he recalled his experience working during the current surge. 

Dr. Leung added that one-fifth of the medical staff in his department became infected themselves and had to stop working. The remaining staff were so overworked and exhausted that there was little they could do to help the patients beyond the bare minimum of care. Patients were given oxygen therapy, injections, and pain-relieving drugs and antibiotics. 

Funeral home staff members load a dead body into a vehicle next to a makeshift area for people being treated outside Caritas hospital in Hong Kong on March 2, 2022. – Hong Kong is in the throes of its worst-ever coronavirus outbreak and has since seen overflowing hospitals and morgues, shortages of medics and ambulances and a frantic expansion of the city’s spartan quarantine camp system. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY/AFP via Getty Images)

Doctor: ‘I have seen five patients die within two hours’

“They were moaning or yelling in pain, but there was no time to look at them. All they could do was just lie there and await their fate.”

Dr. Leung described the miserable situation to the daughter of an elderly patient, “About 400 patients have been waiting for beds for several days. The medical staff and patients are like the crew and passengers of the Titanic. After the ship collided with the iceberg, everyone is now struggling in the sea.”

“Bagging up bodies has become our daily routine. We have to stuff body bags under the beds of patients who are about to pass away. I have seen five patients die within two hours because of how hectic and chaotic everything is.” 

Speaking with state-run media, Leung said that often he had no choice but to watch as patients struggled to take their last breaths. “It’s hard for me too, but we don’t have time to stop or cry, because there are still countless patients rushing into the hospital.”