HONG KONG: As daily cases surged by some 20 times over the past two weeks, causing shortages of hospital beds, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said the latest wave of COVID-19 cases has overwhelmed the city, which is struggling to cope. As health authorities reported a record 2,071 infections on February 14, with 4,500 separate preliminary positive cases, Lam issued a grim update for residents already subjected to tight restrictions. “The onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong and overwhelmed the city’s capacity of handling,” she said, adding that patients were having to wait longer to be cared for. Her administration would coordinate with Chinese officials to counter the “aggravating situation,” Lam said. China has said it will provide the city with testing, treatment and quarantine supplies, including rapid antigen kits, protective gear and fresh vegetables. Despite the latest surge, deaths in the global financial hub remain far less than similar-sized cities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the city’s Hospital Authority showed hospital beds for COVID-19 patients are already at 90 percent occupancy, while isolation facilities are near full capacity. Larry Lee, chief manager at the city’s Hospital Authority, said Hong Kong is prioritising care for the elderly, children and those in serious conditions in hospitals. Hong Kong’s total caseload since the pandemic first began is around 24,000 infections, including more than 200 deaths, less than other major cities. Authorities would “spare no effort” to implement the “dynamic zero” coronavirus infection strategy in Hong Kong, which, like mainland China, aims to curb outbreaks as soon as they occur, compared with many other countries that are trying to live with COVID-19, Lam noted. In a statement, the government said the city’s Legislative Council will discuss setting aside $3.46 billion, which will be spent to support businesses and individuals affected by the city’s strict COVID-19 measures.