People watch the sunset from Garden Hill look out in Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong on Aug 23, 2022. (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)

HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s daily COVID-19 caseload crossed another mark on Thursday as it topped 8,000 cases, with health authorities noting an “accelerated" rate of increase.

Albert Au Ka-wing, principal medical and health officer of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch, said in a press briefing that there were 8,579 new cases, including 297 imported infections. Nine new deaths also brought the city’s toll during the fifth wave to 9,430.

Nine residential care homes had 15 new cases while 51 schools reported 49 students and 17 staff members getting infected

The last time new cases topped 8,000 was on March 27, when 8,037 infections were reported. On Wednesday, the city's caseload breached the 7,000 mark with 7,884 cases.

“There is an accelerated speed in the rate of increase..Every day, there is a clear increase of a few hundred or a thousand cases more,” Au said.

“We believe the cases will soon exceed 10,000. This will create very serious pressure on the healthcare system,” he added.

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Au said that, if the situation got worse, the government would take into account the territory’s economy in implementing anti-virus measures.

“The fifth wave has not ended so far..We have seen a rebound in the number of cases since early June, increasing gradually to a high level,” he added.

Au said the faster increase in infections could be due to “the wide circulation of (Omicron subvariant) BA.5 in the local community.”  

Of the 297 imported cases, 144 were detected at the airport, 86 in quarantine hotels, and 67 at community testing centers.

Au said nine residential care homes had 15 new cases while 51 schools reported 49 students and 17 staff members getting infected.

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Larry Lee Lap-yip, chief manager (Integrated Clinical Services) of the Hospital Authority, said in the same briefing that the nine COVID patients who died included four men and five women aged 70 to 108 years old. Five of them were not fully vaccinated.

Lee said 2,234 COVID patients were being treated in public hospitals as of Thursday, including 331 new patients. Forty were in critical condition, including 20 receiving intensive care, and 30 in serious condition.

Two new hospital clusters, with a total of nine cases, were also found at the Tuen Mun Hospital and the Pok Oi Hospital, Lee said.    

He said a female patient at the geriatric ward of Tuen Mun Hospital tested positive on screening and further tests showed that four other patients were also infected.

At Pok Oi Hospital, a medical assistant was confirmed to be infected, with contact tracing showing that another staff member and two male patients also had the virus. Lee said the patients were in stable condition.   

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