On Wednesday, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam said the city is on the verge of a large-scale coronavirus outbreak that may overload its health care system and cost lives.

In a prerecorded video clip, Lam said there has been an “upsurge” in local COVID-19 infections, and there are “many with yet unknown sources.”

Hong Kong health officials reported a spike in new cases, with 145 reported this week. They said they were investigating more than 100 new cases. So far, Hong Kong has reported 2,885 cases and 23 deaths.

Lam said, “We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly.”

Despite being relatively close to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong was able to contain the spread of the virus.

Hong Kong was able to avoid imposing a lockdown while other countries imposed strict social distancing measures. It even reopened Disneyland Hong Kong in mid-June.

However, the officials imposed new and stricter social distancing rules, with a ban on mass gatherings and the suspension of dine-in services. Public gatherings of up to 50 people were allowed but now that has been reduced to two. The officials have also ordered compulsory facemasks in all public places.

Lam urged citizens to cooperate and follow social distancing measures in order to protect the city.

“I appeal to you to follow strictly the social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible,” she said. “If we stand united and work together, we can suppress this epidemic again.”

Why Hong Kong has experienced a recent surge in new coronavirus cases?

Prof. Jin Dong-Yan of the University of Hong Kong told the Global Times said the recent surge could be due to “flaws in border procedures in Hong Kong.”

He said, “Patients from overseas may have brought the virus to communities which resulted in the current local transmission.”

Local researchers have raised concerns that a strain of the coronavirus circulating in Hong Kong could cause greater damage. They said the virus has not mutated for at least 22 days, which means it could have adapted well to humans, becoming easier to transmit.