Top Hong Kong officials have warned of even tougher social-distancing rules ahead and placed the city in “full-on war mode” against Covid-19, with help pouring in from mainland China, as thousands of new coronavirus infections are reported every day. At a meeting in neighbouring Shenzhen on Sunday, the top-level coordination group set up to help Hong Kong out of its crisis called for unified and concerted efforts as it discussed the work of mainland teams in the city, as well as the mobilisation of medical supplies and transportation of daily necessities from across the border. The meeting, led by Hong Kong and Macau Office director Xia Baolong, was the fourth since President Xi Jinping last week put the local government on notice to contain the raging outbreak and ordered mainland authorities to provide their full support. Hong Kong health authorities confirmed 6,067 new infections on Sunday, nearly all of which were locally transmitted and took the city’s tally to 52,830. Officials stopped providing numbers for preliminary-positive cases, which have been in the thousands every day, saying the backlog of test samples to be confirmed meant they could no longer reflect the real daily trend. Nineteen more Covid-19 patients died, taking the toll to 305 since the start of the pandemic, while more than 10 were in a critical condition. Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, warned that daily caseloads were still rising. She noted the surge in both confirmed and preliminary infections from around 4,000 daily between February 15 and 17 to 7,000-10,000 since February 18. As of Sunday, 672 residents and 197 workers at 240 care homes for the elderly had been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the fifth wave began in late December. Hong Kong boy band Mirror begins work on video for Covid fight, as donations pour in Meanwhile, a team of four mainland experts who arrived in Hong Kong last week held a meeting with local officials on Sunday morning. According to state media, the Hong Kong side explained the city’s current situation, while the mainland experts shared their experiences in controlling Omicron variant-fuelled outbreaks back home. The expert delegation also exchanged views with various departments on issues such as the use of technology, compulsory home quarantine arrangements, hotline services and isolation policies. The group later met environment chief Wong Kam-sing via videoconferencing, along with the Drainage Services Department and Environmental Protection Department, to discuss the city’s sewage surveillance programme. The delegation also met health secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee, and the Hospital Authority’s chairman and chief executive. It also visited the Princess Margaret Hospital Infectious Disease Centre to learn about Hong Kong’s work in diagnosis, treatment and care of confirmed patients. Around 20 mainland experts and testing personnel from the First Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou visited a testing station in Ma On Shan to begin helping with work, according to media reports. Hong Kong’s task force on ensuring the flow of medical supplies, led by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah, said it had received 150,000 boxes of traditional Chinese medicine donated by the mainland. Another 300,000 boxes were ready to be sent over, while 25 million KN95 masks had also been provided. The Food and Health Bureau also held a briefing with the Security Bureau’s anti-epidemic task force to discuss how hotels would act as isolation facilities for patients with mild or symptoms. About 1,700 rooms had already gone into operation, with at least 4,000 more available later this week. The Hospital Authority and Department of Health also announced that those with suitable household conditions, such as not living with high-risk residents, would be allowed to leave isolation facilities if they tested negative on the seventh day and stay home for another week. But those who were still positive would have to remain in the facilities and get tested on the 14th day. If they were positive after that, they would undergo daily tests until they returned a negative result. Those in non-suitable households will remain in isolation facilities for 14 days and can resume their daily lives once they test negative. From Monday, the government will start distributing electronic wristbands and anti-epidemic kits to people waiting to be admitted to hospital to ensure they remain at home, and provide them with advice on health monitoring, infection control guidelines, living arrangements and garbage disposal. The Social Welfare Department said it had set up a holding centre at Choi Wing Road Sports Centre in Kwun Tong for receiving elderly patients referred by the Hospital Authority and pending admission to hospitals. Calls mount for Hong Kong private hospitals to cut Covid-19 test fees Earlier in the day, Chan, the secretary for food and health, warned that certain anti-pandemic measures could be tightened, but did not go into specifics. “There is definitely no room for relaxing social-distancing measures, I can say here. In fact, we are studying how to tighten them further,” she told a radio programme. The city’s deputy leader, Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, wrote in a blog post of the authorities being in “full-on war mode”. “Now is the most critical time during two years of anti-pandemic efforts. The SAR government is in a full-on war mode and will follow the important instruction of President Xi Jinping to stabilise the epidemic as an overriding priority, mobilising all forces and resources, taking all necessary steps to protect Hong Kong people’s lives and health and ensure Hong Kong’s social stability,” Lee wrote. The government had previously said that under its vaccine pass scheme, which was expected to start on February 24, it planned to ease restrictions, and residents who had received at least one Covid-19 jab would be able to access restaurants and other currently closed venues such as cinemas, bars and hair salons. But restaurant industry veteran Simon Wong Ka-wo said that even with the vaccine pass, many restaurants would not be able to recover because of the strict social-distancing measures. “If the government will not relax any of the measures, there’s no point,” said Wong, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades. Rapid mass testing in Hong Kong ‘can cut 90 per cent of Covid transmission chains’ Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Tony Ko Pat-sing said the organisation was looking at expanding the seven designated clinics currently treating Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms to cope with demand. Ko said the clinics, which opened last week, handled about 800 cases daily but uneven distribution of demand could mean capacity in some districts was still stretched. He also defended the authority’s handling of patients, many of whom were forced to wait in outdoor areas for admission to hospital amid falling temperatures. “We had plans in place, but the surge in caseload was rather quick,” he said.