Hong Kong reports 32,430 COVID cases, 264 deaths

COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong health authorities reported 32,430 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as the city's leader said her government was trying build capacity to deal with the crisis that has swept through care homes.

Although Chief Executive Carrie Lam said government efforts were improving, she said they had yet to reach everybody in isolation to see whether people needed help.

"With so many people put under isolation or quarantine, the government has been strengthening our capability to support them. However, we're still catching up," she told reporters.

Some 300,000 people were isolating at home, she said, as the Omicron variant sweeps across the heavily congested financial hub, overwhelming its health care system and sparking panic buying at some supermarkets.

Health authorities reported 32,430 new positive cases in Hong Kong on Sunday, versus 27,647 new infections on Saturday and 29,381 new infections on Friday. Authorities on Sunday also reported 248 new deaths.

Hong Kong has recorded nearly 700,000 COVID-19 infections and about 3,500 deaths since early 2020 - most of them in the past two weeks. Most of the fatalities are among unvaccainated senior citizens.

Hong Kong, like mainland China, is pursuing a "dynamic zero" strategy that seeks to curb infections with strict control measures, even as most other major cities learn to live with the virus.

China is now battling its own outbreak, with mainland Chinese authorities on Sunday reporting 1,807 new local symptomatic COVID-19 cases on Sunday, more than triple the caseload of the previous day, and the highest in about two years. [L2N2VG00Z]

Hong Kong registered the most deaths per million people globally in the week to March 9, according to data publication Our World in Data.

On Saturday, Lam said she could not comfortably say that virus numbers had peaked.

A senior Chinese official overseeing Hong Kong affairs, Xia Baolong, who has been helping coordinate Beijing's response to help Hong Kong contain the outbreak, was cited by the China News Agency on Saturday as saying the situation was still severe and told residents to prepare mentally for a "long-term war".

(Reporting By Greg Torode and Anne Marie Roantree; editing by Richard Pullin and Gerry Doyle)