People shop on a street in Hong Kong’s Sheung Shui town near the Chinese mainland border on Jan 4, 2023 ahead of the resumption of normal cross-border travel on Sunday. (PETER PARKS / AFP)

HONG KONG – The number of new COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong went up again, reaching 18,422, on Thursday, when the authorities also reported 68 related deaths, with the city preparing to resume normal travel with the Chinese mainland.

The city logged 16,423 new cases on Wednesday, 16,186 on Tuesday and 20,230 on the previous day, data showed.

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Of Thursday’s new cases, 18,258 were locally acquired and the rest 164 were imported, said the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health in a statement.

The locally transmitted cases include 3,040 that tested positive by nucleic acid tests and 15,218 through rapid antigen tests.

The new COVID cases took the city’s tally to 2,720,255. Total 12,149 people have died since the start of the pandemic, including 11,936 during the fifth wave.

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The overall occupancy of medical beds in acute hospitals has reached around 117 percent, according to the Hospital Authority.

As of Wednesday, 5,157 patients testing positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized, including 515 new patients, for treatment. Among them, 3,053 required isolation, 810 required oxygen therapy and 91 required ventilator support, it added.