英文

Editorial:Testing ability must be boosted

【明報專訊】HONG KONG'S streak of zero local COVID-19 infections has ended, as a woman in her sixties and her five-year-old granddaughter have caught the virus and their family members who live together also show symptoms. The two newly confirmed patients have not travelled recently and are not found to have visited a high-risk venue. As the source of infection is unknown, the case is worthy of concern.

According to the Centre for Health Protection, of the eight family members who have been in close contact with the woman, six have shown preliminary symptoms apart from the granddaughter who has already tested positive for the virus. The woman's husband is the only person without symptoms, but the latest news from last night is that he has been preliminarily diagnosed with the disease. There is no absolute way to prevent COVID-19 infection, the major reason being that a patient might be asymptomatic. The preliminary diagnosis of the husband accentuates this risk once again. It remains uncertain who was the first to contract the virus and in what venue he or she contracted the virus in this family cluster. The only certain thing is that there is an invisible chain of transmission at community level. According to local experts in disease control, testing shows that the woman carries a high amount of the virus and thus a risk of infecting others. As far as the development of the outbreak is concerned, the public must not lose hope, but they cannot be overly optimistic either. The new case does not necessarily presage a recurrence of community outbreaks. But all sides should prepare for the worst. The warning bell for a recurrence has been rung. Citizens have to heighten their vigilance and must not lower their guard.

As a case of local infection has emerged again, many citizens are concerned about whether the count of 28 days of infection should be reset and whether the relaxation of anti-pandemic measures should be called off. As Gabriel Leung, Dean of HKU's faculty of medicine, has said, as COVID-19 is highly capable of asymptomatic transmission, it is not really possible to eliminate it. The ideal benchmark of ''28 days' clean sheet'' might not be applicable to this pandemic. For a certain period of time, sporadic infections and even small-scale outbreaks will happen from time to time. This could be the ''new normal''. Everyone has to learn to live with the pandemic. Of the utmost importance is to strictly prevent these incidents from becoming large-scale community outbreaks.

Since the disease broke out, the government has repeatedly stressed that Hong Kong has one of the highest proportions of people tested for the virus in Asia, as an average of over 22,000 tests have been conducted for every one million people. While this figure is respectable, there are other places that have tested even higher proportions of their populations.

Hong Kong has a population of over seven million. There might be practical difficulties in executing a universal testing scheme. However, there is not another way to identify the hidden chains of transmission and hidden patients in the communities as soon as possible other than vastly scaling up virus testing. Yuen Kwok-yung believes that the Department of Health has enough manpower. If a timetable is drawn up appropriately and people work in shifts, the number of people tested every day can be increased. Gabriel Leung, another consultant, even says that if testing conducted by the private sector is taken into account, the government can boost the daily number of tests to over 10,000 when working together with the private sector. The government should listen more to suggestions made by experts and find ways to overcome the technical hurdles and significantly boost its testing ability and scope.

明報社評 2020.05.14:防疫措施張弛有道 病毒檢測必須加強

香港本地零確診「斷纜」,一名六旬婦人及其5歲孫女中招,同住家人亦有病徵。兩名新確診病人既無外遊紀錄,亦未發現她們到過高風險場所,感染源頭不明,情况令人關注。

衛生防護中心指出,與婦人有密切接觸的8名家族成員,除了已確診的孫女,還有6人出現初步病徵,唯一沒有病徵者是婦人的丈夫,然而根據昨晚最新消息,婦人丈夫已初步確診。COVID-19防不勝防,一大原因是感染者未必有病徵,婦人丈夫初步確診,再度突顯這一風險。這宗家庭群組感染個案,究竟是誰最先中招、在什麼場所感染,至今仍不清楚,唯一可以肯定是社區有隱形傳播鏈。本地防疫專家指出,檢測顯示婦人病毒量高,有傳染風險。市民看待疫情發展,既要抱有希望,亦不能過度樂觀。今次新病例不一定是再度出現社區爆發的先兆,可是各方亦要有最壞打算,疫情復發的警號已經響起,市民必須提高警覺,防疫意識不能鬆懈。

本地感染個案再現,「28日零確診」是否需要從頭計起、防疫措施「鬆綁」大計要否叫停,惹來不少市民關注。正如港大醫學院院長梁卓偉所言,COVID-19隱形傳播能力高,滅之絕之不大可能,「28日清零」這個理想指標,今次疫情未必適用。未來一段時間,零星感染個案甚至小規模爆發反覆出現,可能成為「新常態」,所有人都要學習「與疫共存」,最重要是嚴防事態演變成大規模社區爆發。

疫情爆發以來,港府再三強調,本港病毒檢測比例在亞洲數一數二,平均每百萬人進行了超過2.2萬次測試。這個比例雖然不算差,可是放眼全球,人口檢測比例較香港高的亦不少。

香港人口超過700萬,要做到全民檢測,實際執行也許有難度,然而若要盡快找出社區隱形傳播鏈和隱形病人,大幅提高病毒測試數量,乃是不二法門。袁國勇認為,衛生署有足夠人手,只要做好時間編排,分更去做,便可增加每日檢測人數;另一位顧問專家梁卓偉更指出,若配合私營市場的檢測,官民合力可以將每日檢測量提升至上萬次。政府應該多聽抗疫專家建議,設法克服技術障礙,顯著提升檢測能力和檢測範圍。

■Glossary(生字)

preliminary:happening before a more important action or event

presage:to be a warning or sign that sth will happen, usually sth unpleasant

benchmark:sth that can be measured and used as a standard that other things can be compared with

上 / 下一篇新聞