Hong Kong reported more than 1,100 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

According to the city’s health authorities, 1,161 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours, out of which eight were imported.

Also, two people lost their battle against COVID-19, the first fatalities in the past six months, official RTHK News reported.

Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan from Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection said: “Some patients are retirees and housewives who had visited shopping malls and markets.”

“Many of those infected had taken part in large gatherings during the Lunar New Year period,” she added.

Dr. Larry Lee Lap-yip, chief manager at Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority, said the emergency wards at public hospitals were “overstretched” and urged those who test positive for the coronavirus “not to rush to those places.”

Instead, he suggested doing “a deep throat saliva test to confirm their infection.”

“As the number of patients grows at a shocking speed, public hospital staff are busy caring for thousands of patients,” the doctor said.

“We appeal to those who test preliminary-positive to stay at home patiently, as they might have to wait for a few days before being admitted to a hospital,” said Larry. “Those on the top of the waiting list will be taken care of with a hotline for medical assistance.”

Hong Kong has reported 16,647 COVID-19 cases, including 215 deaths since the pandemic began.

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