HK health minister defends social distancing rules

29-Oct-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong was facing just two new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, as the city’s health minister defended the government’s easing of social-distancing rules described by some as being inconsistent.

A medical source said both cases were traceable, and officials cancelled the daily press briefing, suggesting the infections were either imported or the origins were known.

The figures, if confirmed, would take the city’s total number of Covid-19 infections to 5,310, with 105 related deaths. There have been just five local cases of transmission in the past week.

Secretary of Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chiu made her comments a day after the government said the cap on restaurant diners and pub goers would be relaxed from four to six, and two to four, from Friday onwards.

But the limit on gathering in public remains at four until at least next Thursday, a move criticised by health experts, who said it was riskier when people ate together and were not wearing masks, compared with having them on during public gatherings.

“I disagree there’s inconsistency in our decision making,” Chan said on a radio show. “We have different considerations, we cannot relax all measures at the same time, we have to do it gradually.

“If it is just lining up outside the restaurants with more than four people together, I believe the law enforcement officers would be reasonable.”

She said the government had been looking into the whole picture and would consider further relaxation of the rules if the situation remained stable.

On the same show, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said he had reservations about relaxing the rules, but believed there were economic considerations involved.

Ho suggested the government carry out more inspections, including to check that restaurants were following the guidelines.

“They can go to do random checking at 100 restaurants, for example, and see if they followed the guidelines, such as whether the height of the partition is above the eye line of diners, and has surrounded diners in the front, left and right,” he said.

“As currently, the government has just based on the number of local confirmed cases when deciding relaxation, which would cause delays in seeing a worsening situation.”


Category: Hong Kong

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