英文

Editorial : COVID-19 cases returning to zero

【明報專訊】WITH the third wave of COVID-19 infections going on for more than two months, yesterday (September 15) the number of newly confirmed cases returned to zero domestically at long last. No doubt it is good news that the pandemic is showing signs of being tamed. However, it is still too early to say that the third wave of infections will come to an end soon.

Yesterday there were four new cases in Hong Kong, all of which were imported cases. There were no local infections. This means that since the outbreak of the third wave of the pandemic, the new cases in Hong Kong have "returned to zero" for the first time. This is undoubtedly an inspiring development. But in fact the daily number of newly confirmed cases fluctuates from day to day, so this is absolutely not time for blind optimism. Even if the anti-pandemic measures can be relaxed, no party should take the matter lightly. The third wave of infections in Hong Kong is far more severe than the previous two. One major reason is the large number of infections of unknown sources, which are scattered across various districts and imply the existence of many invisible chains of transmission at community level. In places like South Korea and Singapore, once a large-scale outbreak of the pandemic occurs, it is rare for the number of cases to return to zero even though the pandemic has been tackled with great effort. The daily number of confirmed cases in Singapore has never returned to zero since mid-March. As for South Korea, it has never returned to zero since the outbreak related to the Itaewon cluster in May.

When the number of cases cannot return to zero, it means that invisible chains of transmission exist in the community for a long time. A modest relaxation of anti-pandemic measures could lead to another deterioration of the pandemic. Restarting social and economic activities in such circumstances is definitely risky, and it is difficult to achieve a "sustainable return to normal". After the second wave of the epidemic in Hong Kong ebbed, the number of cases remained at zero for a long time. It remains unknown whether this can be repeated. The next two or three weeks will be crucial.

The pandemic is slowly ebbing away. More than two weeks into the government's relaxation of evening dine-in services, the epidemic has not rebounded significantly. However, it must be pointed out that cases of unknown sources over the past two weeks have still accounted for 20% of the total on average, showing that the risk of transmission in the communities remains.

There was a person who sought medical help four times citing symptoms but was not sent by the doctor to a test. The person was eventually diagnosed through the universal testing scheme. The fight against the pandemic should be a matter of concern for everyone. Private doctors who contact patients on the frontline should be vigilant and assist the entire city in preventing and controlling the pandemic. The universal testing scheme shows that whenever a confirmed case occurs in a certain district, the demand for virus testing among residents in the district will increase significantly. The authorities' arrangements for distributing test bottles for deep throat saliva samples should be made more convenient for the public. As Hong Kong's testing capabilities have been enhanced, the authorities should arrange more frequent regular testing for people working in specific industries and premises including taxi drivers and workers for nursing homes. The third wave of the pandemic remains unpredictable. The reopening of society should be cautious and prudent, and the relaxation of social restrictions must not be too hasty. People in all sectors must exercise stoicism. The Hong Kong government must also do a good job of preventing imported cases from abroad and must not repeat the mistake of exempting sailors from quarantine arrangements.

明報社評2020.09.16:第三波疫情首「歸零」 中秋臨近防疫難鬆

第三波疫情持續逾兩個月,昨天本地新增確診病例終於「歸零」,疫情有受控迹象,當然是好消息,不過現在斷言第三波疫情快將告一段落,仍然為時尚早。

昨天本港新增4宗病例,全屬輸入個案,沒有本地感染個案。第三波疫情爆發以來,本港新增病例首度「歸零」,無疑令人振奮,然而單日新增確診病例每天有上有落,現在絕非盲目樂觀的時候,即使防疫措施可以放寬,各方也不能掉以輕心。本港第三波疫情遠比之前兩輪嚴峻,一大原因是不明感染病例眾多,兼且分散各區,意味社區有很多隱形傳播鏈。放眼韓國、新加坡等地經驗,疫情一旦出現大範圍爆發,即使竭力將之壓制下來,往往無法「歸零」。新加坡單日確診病例,自3月中以來從未試過歸零,至於韓國的情况,則是5月梨泰院群組爆發以來未嘗歸零。

疫情無法「歸零」,意味隱形傳播鏈長期存在於社區,防疫稍為鬆懈,疫情隨時又會再度惡化,在這樣的狀態下重啟社會經濟活動,風險一定較大,實現「可持續復常」的難度一定較高。本港第二波疫情放緩後,維持「歸零」狀態好一段時間,今回能否做到,仍是未知之數,未來兩三周將是關鍵。

疫情徐徐放緩,政府放寬晚市堂食逾兩周,疫情亦未見顯著反彈,然而必須指出的是,近兩周錄得的病例,源頭不明個案平均仍佔兩成或以上,反映社區傳播風險仍在。

普及檢測計劃中,有人因為有病徵四度求醫,卻未獲私家醫生安排檢測,最終經由普及檢測確診。疫情防控是眾人之事,私家醫生在前線接觸病人,應提高警覺,協助全城防疫把關。普及檢測計劃顯示,但凡某區出現確診病例,區內市民對於病毒檢測需求都會顯著增加,當局派發深喉唾液樣本檢測瓶,安排應更加便利市民。隨着本港檢測能力提升,當局應針對特定行業及處所,諸如的士司機和安老院等,更頻密地安排定期檢測。第三波疫情尚存變數,社會重開必須小心審慎,放寬限聚不能過急,各行各業需要忍耐,港府亦要做好「外防輸入」工作,不能重蹈類似豁免海員檢疫的覆轍。

■Glossary

生字

inspiring : exciting and encouraging you to do or feel sth

ebb : to become gradually weaker or less

stoicism : the fact of not complaining or showing what you are feeling when you are suffering

上 / 下一篇新聞