英文

Editorial : A ban on alcohol sale

【明報專訊】AS HONG KONG PEOPLE in the UK and the US are returning to the city in droves to flee the pandemic, there has been a marked increase in imported coronavirus cases in Hong Kong, while local infections also threaten to rise. In light of the fact that several cases were related to pubs and other venues, the government has temporarily barred pubs and restaurants from selling alcoholic drinks in its new measures against the pandemic. The industry has voiced its opposition in unison. One of the key components of anti-pandemic work at community level is about minimising social contact in high-risk venues. The rising number of infections originating from the Lan Kwai Fong cluster shows that pubs have indeed become potential sites of viral spread, carrying risks that no ordinary restaurants can compare with. Some of those returning to Hong Kong from Europe and the US have picked up the pub culture there and like to gather to quaff pint after pint and have a casual chat. The risk of cross-infection cannot be underestimated. To fight against the pandemic, it is necessary for the government to take measures to make people less inclined to assemble at high-risk venues.

For more than half a month, confirmed infections in Hong Kong have been mostly imported cases. But recently the number of local cluster infections at community level has been on the rise as well, involving wedding banquets as well as big parties attended by a hundred people. This shows that some people have lowered their guard. Particularly worthy of concern is the constant increase in the number of infections from the Lan Kwai Fong cluster. Yesterday (March 24) Hong Kong registered 30 new confirmed cases, most of which involved people who had travelled abroad. As for local cases, six people were related to the Lan Kwai Fong cluster. It is easy for groups of people having a chat in pubs to forget themselves under the influence of alcohol, thus neglecting anti-pandemic work. The government has proposed formulating laws to temporarily prohibit about 8,600 bars, restaurants and clubs with a liquor license from selling alcoholic drinks in the hope of minimising the number of people coming together in these venues to amuse themselves. This has provoked strong opposition from the industry. Some are unhappy that there has not been a consultation exercise, while others have challenged the logic of "banning alcohol to fight the pandemic". Some people point out that citizens might shift to their homes where they throw parties as before with alcohol they have bought. Some people in the bar industry say bluntly that a ban on the sale of alcohol is tantamount to shutting down their business.

An alcohol ban has nothing to do with the fight against the pandemic itself. However, a ban on alcohol is a different concept from prohibiting alcohol from being sold and consumed at venues. The latter is aimed at preventing people from assembling at alcohol-selling venues for amusement. The Hong Kong government has not barred citizens from consuming alcohol, so the two concepts should not be confused. The key to combating the pandemic at community level is to reduce unnecessary human contact and prevent crowds from forming at high-risk venues.

One of the main reasons why confirmed cases have shot up in Hong Kong is the return of Hong Kong people from infected areas in Europe and the US. This has nothing to do with the closure of borders. What has happened in the US also illustrates that mere reliance on the closure of borders not accompanied by anti-pandemic efforts at community level will not be sufficient to prevent a major outbreak. The industry cannot use the issue of the closure of borders in defence of their opposition to the strengthening of anti-pandemic measures at community level. True, it is difficult to prevent citizens from buying alcohol and throwing parties at their homes instead of a bar. But this shows exactly the necessity of self-discipline. Our anti-pandemic work will not be successful if everyone prioritises personal freedom or interests over the public interest.

明報社評2020.03.25:減少高風險場所群聚 人人忍痛抗疫為大我

英美港人紛紛回港避疫,香港輸入病例顯著上升,本地感染個案亦有增加之勢,多宗病例均與酒吧等場所有關,政府提出防疫新措施,暫禁酒吧食肆供應酒類飲品,業界紛表反對。社區防疫工作一大重點,是減少高風險場所社交接觸。蘭桂坊染疫群組病例持續上升,說明酒吧確實成為了潛在「播毒」場所,風險非一般食肆可比;部分從歐美返港的人,習慣了當地酒吧文化,喜歡群聚酒吧暢飲閒聊,交叉感染風險更是不能低估。為了全港抗疫大局着想,當局有必要採取措施,減少人們在高風險場所聚集的意欲。

過去大半個月,本港確診個案以外國輸入為主,惟最近本地社區群組感染亦有增加之勢,當中既有涉及婚宴,亦有百人大型派對,反映部分人防疫意識鬆懈下來;蘭桂坊群組感染人數持續增加,尤其令人關注。昨天本港新增30宗確診病例,當中大部分人有外遊紀錄,至於涉及本地感染個案,6人與蘭桂坊群組有關。酒吧群聚聊天,酒意容易令人失態忘記防疫。港府提出制訂法例,暫時禁止全港約8600家領有酒牌的酒吧、食肆及會社供應酒類飲品,希望人們減少在飲酒場所群聚消遣,業界強烈反對,有人不滿未有諮詢,有人質疑「禁酒防疫」邏輯,有人指出市民可能「轉場」買酒回家照開派對,亦有酒吧業人士直言,禁止買酒等於斷絕他們的生意。

「禁止飲酒」本身與防疫沾不上邊,可是「禁酒」與「禁止場所售酒即場飲用」,其實是兩個不同概念,後者是要避免人們聚集在飲酒地方消遣作樂,現在港府亦非禁止市民飲酒,不能將兩者混為一談。社區防疫要義,在於減少不必要人際接觸、避免高風險場所群聚。

當前本港確診病例急增,一大原因是大批歐美疫區港人回來,跟封關無關;美國經驗亦說明,只靠封關不去做好社區防疫,最終難逃大爆發,業界不能以封關問題作為擋箭牌,反對加強社區防疫措施。誠然,市民不去酒吧改為買酒在家開派對,確實很難阻止,然而這正正突出了防疫必須人人克己自律。如果人人都以個人自由或自身利益為先、大我利益為後,抗疫工作不可能成功。

■Glossary

生字

forget yourself : to behave in a way that is not socially acceptable

amusement : the process of getting or providing pleasure and enjoyment

prioritise : to treat sth as being more important than other things

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