Coronavirus: HK to stay course with ‘dynamic-zero’ strategy, health minister says as third new cluster emerges

14-May-2022 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong will stick with the “dynamic-zero” strategy to contain Covid-19, the city’s health minister said on Friday, as a new cluster involving a restaurant in Sheung Wan emerged.

The cluster is the third to be reported by health authorities over the past two days. The others involve a public housing estate in Kennedy Town and a billiards centre in Hung Hom.

According to health authorities, at least 30 infections were reported among diners and staff at Sky Cuisine on Des Voeux Road in Sheung Wan. Anyone who visited the restaurant from 6pm to 11pm last Saturday, the eve of Mother’s Day, must undergo compulsory testing.

The number of reported infections at Sai Wan Estate in Kennedy Town also rose, with another 22 cases uncovered after a lockdown was implemented on Thursday night.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee on Friday reaffirmed the city’s commitment to its “dynamic-zero” approach, which strives to contain an outbreak as fast as possible, despite earlier speculation by local pandemic experts that mainland China might gradually shift away from the strategy.

“Dynamic-zero infection has been our goal. We did not deviate from it and we hold fast to it,” she told lawmakers.

Her comments came after World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier this week said China’s strategy was not “sustainable” given the virus’ behaviour. But his remarks quickly drew criticism from the country’s foreign ministry, which called them “irresponsible”.

Chan, meanwhile, said the government would need to discuss the resumption of cross-border quarantine-free travel with mainland authorities, noting the rules could not be decided unilaterally by one of the parties.

“When the epidemic is well under control, the relevant work can resume,” she said, without giving a timetable for any future progress.

Chan said the government hoped to see a further fall in the daily number of new infections, which had hovered between 200 and 300 cases over the past week.

Hong Kong on Friday recorded 298 new Covid-19 cases, of which 21 were imported, and three more deaths. The overall tally of infections stands at 1,207,963, with 9,359 related fatalities.

Earlier, government pandemic adviser Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said the virus could not be wiped out and would continue to exist, adding that temporarily eliminating it would extract a high cost due to the potential disruption to society and the economy.

“Both eradication and elimination of the virus didn’t work. We are entering a state of ‘controlling’ the pandemic to ensure a low level of cases so as to prevent our medical system from collapsing,” he said.

Yuen also warned that simply monitoring daily infections was no longer reliable to determine the pandemic’s development, and suggested authorities focus on indicators such as the number of deaths, patients with severe conditions as well as positive cases detected in hospitals.

“As long as these numbers do not go up, we can continue relaxing social-distancing rules and measures at the border,” he said.

The overnight lockdown at Sai Wan Estate uncovered 22 infections after five cases from four families were detected at West Terrace, one of five blocks there. Sewage samples collected from the estate had also tested positive, with a high viral load.

About 1,680 residents underwent testing at the estate. government workers visited 630 households within the lockdown area and 22 families did not answer the door. Follow-up action will be taken.

Yuen said that despite signs of an outbreak in Kennedy Town, he believed the local population had already acquired protection against severe Covid-19 conditions as more than 90 per cent of the population had developed antibodies from being infected or vaccinated.

“We don’t need to panic at all as we have already formed an immunity barrier against severe conditions,” he said, adding the most important factor was to get three vaccine doses.

Dr Ho Pak-leung also said fully vaccinated residents should not worry about eating out in Kennedy Town. He suggested that authorities avoid sparking panic by informing the public of each area’s sewage testing results and categorising the samples using different grades based on their viral levels.

News of a potential cluster in Kennedy Town first emerged when the medical faculty of the University of Hong Kong issued a warning to staff and students on Facebook on Thursday morning. The post called on them to avoid having lunch in the area, citing infection risks.

But two leading government health advisers later urged the public not to be overly anxious, with an official from the Centre for Health Protection saying it respected the university’s decision to make the call.

The faculty issued a statement on Friday morning to express regret over media reports accusing it of causing panic among residents, adding the reminder for staff and students was issued after consensus from the authorities.

“We had hoped that staff and students could get the message before lunch… to avoid spreading the virus to hospitals and other medical facilities… Most staff and students of the faculty might be working and interning at various medical facilities every day,” a faculty spokesman said.

“It was a responsible move to deliver the message internally.”

Separately, Chan also said that an online platform which would allow people to submit records of Covid-19 vaccinations obtained overseas was likely to launch next week.

The platform will provide an alternative method for anyone who was inoculated overseas to obtain the required vaccine pass to enter locations such as restaurants and leisure venues. Residents are currently required to make such a declaration at post offices and upon arrival at the airport.


Category: Hong Kong

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