In response to a request by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the Chinese mainland is sending medical teams to Hong Kong to help conduct mass COVID-19 testing and operate a makeshift hospital in the territory.
The swift mainland response came as the city reported a surge of new infections. The special administrative region (SAR) confirmed another 115 coronavirus cases yesterday, the 12th straight day of triple-digit increases in infections. Soaring infection cases have stretched Hong Kong's hospitals and isolation facilities to their limits, and pose a great challenge to its testing capacity.
About 60 testing staff are being selected from public hospitals in Guangdong to aid Hong Kong's mass testing, a key part in the fight against the highly transmissible virus.
A newly converted mobile-cabin hospital at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong began operation Saturday, and will help the territory's strained medical care system cope with the increasing number of patients. Six specialists will be selected from Wuhan hospitals to help run the AsiaWorld-Expo facility. The specialists were charged with managing mobile-cabin hospitals in Wuhan in its fight against the epidemic early this year.
Lam revealed Saturday that the Central Government will also assist Hong Kong to build a new makeshift hospital. The AsiaWorld-Expo facility can now provide 500 beds. Therefore, a new mobile-cabin facility will be needed if infection numbers continue to surge.
In fact, before the mainland sent medical teams to Hong Kong, it had already extended a helping hand to the SAR by setting up a nucleic acid testing facility there. The Huo-Yan Laboratory in Tai Po, operated by the Hong Kong arm of the Shenzhen-based genome sequencing giant BGI, now carries out 5,000 tests a day. The laboratory's testing capacity can be ramped up to 30,000 a day, according to the company.
As a Chinese city, Hong Kong is definitely entitled to mainland assistances in times of crises and emergencies. In fact, the mainland has never hesitated to come to the rescue when help was needed. For example, it formulated a string of favorable policies helping Hong Kong recover from the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 and SARS in 2002-03. However, some people in Hong Kong seem to view mainland help as unwanted this time.
The Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff said July 23 that it was opposed to Lam's plan to seek help from the mainland, saying it would be against the law for mainland nurses to work in the SAR without holding a local license.
Dr. Gabriel Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, on Thursday warned of the "difficulties" mainland medical workers might bring to the SAR's hospitals. "All the patients' history and prescriptions are typed into the computerized system in English in our public hospitals. If we have a bunch of mainland doctors and nurses who speak Mandarin and write in simplified Chinese mixing with us, that is bound to create a certain degree of chaos," he said.
The associations' comments reflected deep-rooted arrogance among some people in the SAR against anything related to the mainland. Actually there are quite a large number of medical workers in Guangdong who can speak Cantonese and English fluently. Mainland medical workers have also demonstrated their professionalism and selflessness during the country's fight against the virus.
Rumors that the mainland offered assistance in order to collect Hong Kong people's personal data, such as DNA, were groundless and were apparently aimed at damaging the relationship between the Central authorities and the SAR.
Despite a schism caused by the violent protests last year, people on the mainland have an unbreakable bond with their compatriots in Hong Kong. Mainlanders will never forget the generous donations to the motherland by Hongkongers when major natural disasters, such as the Wenchuan Earthquake, hit the mainland.
People on the mainland will not hesitate to help when the SAR is in need of assistance facing a formidable, invisible enemy that has sickened more than 3,500 people and killed at least 27. The bond between the mainland and the city will not be sabotaged by rumors and ill-intentioned criticism.
(The author is a deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)