A Hong Kong mother has described being left “crying and hysterical” after authorities separated her from her 11-month-old baby who tested positive for Covid-19 in hospital, as health care facilities struggle to cope with a sharp influx of patients. The 32-year-old communications professional, who asked to be referred by her first name Laura, said her daughter developed a cough, fever and difficulty breathing on Sunday. After consulting their private doctor via video conferencing on Monday morning, the parents were advised to take their daughter to hospital, she said. The baby was admitted to Queen Mary Hospital where Laura sat with her in an isolation room for 10 hours, while her husband remained in the hallway, the mother added. The baby was then moved into an intensive care unit for monitoring, and a doctor told the couple the hospital was at capacity and did not have the space for them to stay with their daughter, according to Laura, who is British. They said they would wait in the corridor, but were later told by the same doctor they were not allowed to stay given they were close contacts of a confirmed case, she continued. “I was begging, crying, hysterical and screaming,” Laura said. “I had a bit of a breakdown. This is so inhumane. I cannot leave her. She is 11 months old. I’ve never left her. It’s so traumatic for us.” After the couple waited outside the intensive care unit until 1am on Tuesday, the doctor told them that security would be called in and the matter would be escalated to police if they did not leave, according to Laura. Omicron leaves Hong Kong nurses burned-out, overwhelmed and confused On Tuesday, Dr Lau Ka-hin, a chief manager at the Hospital Authority, said officials would “try our best” to arrange for children and parents who were confirmed cases to be together in hospital. “However, as you all know there are many, many cases and many children who have been infected so it takes time for our staff to arrange suitable places for them,” Lau said. As of February 21, Queen Mary Hospital was at 76 per cent capacity with its paediatrics occupancy at 57 per cent. Other public hospitals are facing between 70 and 109 per cent occupancy. In a statement to the Post , the Hospital Authority said under current policy, staff would arrange for a parent and child who tested positive to stay in the same ward so long as the situation allowed. “Considering that the parents of the baby patient were not tested positive to Covid-19, it is not advisable to stay in the hospital’s isolation facilities,” the authority said, adding that video calls would be arranged with their child up to three times a day. “The hospital hopes the patients’ family members can understand the limitations of the arrangements and the space constraint under the current epidemic situation. The clinical team is trying their best to reserve as many beds as possible for the needy children.” Laura’s husband, Nick, tested negative with a rapid antigen test, while she said she had not been screened. She told the Post she had asked hospital staff for a test hoping to be admitted and moved in with her daughter, but was informed she would have to go to a government screening facility. Parents in tears as babies are taken away for Covid-19 tests On Tuesday morning, a doctor told the couple that their daughter’s condition had improved and she was in stable condition, ready to be discharged. However, the policy was that patients could only return home to quarantine upon a negative test seven days from being positive. “The thought of another six days of just not being allowed anywhere near her … I cannot bear it,” the distraught mother said. The couple left staff a phone to FaceTime with their baby on Tuesday. Laura said her child looked calm but confused. “How awful it is to make the call between getting your child the medical help they need and keeping them at home so you can stay together. No parent should ever have to make that agonising choice,” she said. Infectious disease expert Leung Chi-chiu pointed to the huge patient load and limited isolation facilities, noting that public hospitals also had many non-Covid-19 patients to protect. “We are in a war scenario and all parties are facing difficulties,” he said. If a baby was no longer symptomatic and tested negative for Covid-19, then “home isolation is a good option to free up beds for those with more severe diseases,” he added. Dr Siddharth Sridhar, clinical assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s department of microbiology, said the separation of children from their parents was traumatic and also discouraged people from getting their kids diagnosed. “As a general rule, we should do our best to accommodate at least one parent to remain with the child provided the child is not seriously ill. If the baby is medically fit and tests negative, they should be sent home without question,” he said. Family doctor David Owens said his worry was parents delaying treatment due to fear of separation. “We want people to test, but quarantine has the potential to act as a deterrent. We want children to be assessed if they are unwell. I am concerned that fear of parental separation may act as a deterrent and delay the presentation of potentially important medical conditions in children,” he said. Three children have died in the past fortnight after getting Covid-19, with the third victim an 11-month-old girl becoming Hong Kong’s youngest coronavirus-related fatality. The Post reported other cases in April 2020 of parents being separated from children who tested positive. Last March the government released guidelines from the Hospital Authority stating that if parents also tested positive with their children, public hospitals would consider placing them in the same isolation room.If a parent tested negative, medical staff would also “accommodate their request to accompany the paediatric patient”.