英文

Editorial:A half-baked anti-pandemic scheme

【明報專訊】The government has established a legal framework for mandatory COVID-19 virus tests on certain specified groups. A mobile tracing app called ''LeaveHomeSafe'' has also become available for citizens to download. Now the authorities have two new tools to enhance coronavirus testing and contact-tracing. However, the mere presence of tools is not enough for meeting the target of ''zero daily infections in general''. The tools must also be well utilised to achieve that end. Our practical experience has repeatedly shown that the rate of voluntary testing among some of the high-risk groups is low. Disease control experts have advocated compulsory testing to target the problem with accuracy. Now the legal framework is in place, but the authorities are still gazing around hesitantly, saying that the launching time for mandatory testing has yet to be set. Public reception to the ''LeaveHomeSafe'' app on the first day of download was only lukewarm. Citizens were either unaware of the app's existence or critical of the app because too few venues provide a QR code for checking in. The overcautiousness of the authorities and the lack of active co-operation by some of the stakeholders have made Hong Kong's fight against the pandemic good for nothing and made it very hard to achieve good results.

Dark clouds are again looming over the city due to the possible resurgence of the pandemic. The government has tightened social distancing measures once more. Aside from setting stricter limits on the number of people seated together in restaurants and bars, the authorities will also consider including hotels in the regulated venues. For example, a four-person limit may be placed on the number of people allowed to stay in one guest room and so forth. As for the measure of mandatory testing for designated groups, which has been a long time in the making, the authorities have finally established a legal framework. Patients judged by doctors to have symptoms of the virus, people who work or live where there has been an outbreak and people doing high-risk jobs like taxi drivers and nursing home workers are all obligated to do a compulsory test. Those who fail to get tested within the required period or refuse testing can be fined or even jailed.

Hong Kong has failed to achieve a 14-day streak of zero local infection for a long time, a proof that the previous anti-pandemic tools have not been powerful enough. Mandatory testing for specified groups and the launch of the ''LeaveHomeSafe'' app may help compensate the shortfall, but the crux of the matter is how the measures are implemented. As anti-pandemic measures are bound to affect people's daily lives, it is difficult to achieve the great target simply by relying on the voluntary co-operation of individuals. Mandatory requirements of a reasonable extent are inevitable. Since the third wave of outbreaks in July, the authorities have provided three rounds of voluntary testing service to taxi drivers for free, but the participation rates for all the three rounds have been very low. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, a total of 45 taxi drivers have been infected so far.

However, when asked when compulsory testing will be launched, the government only replied that it depends on the pandemic situation and the present participation rate of testing, saying ''If the citizens all take the test self-consciously, we may not need to launch the measure'' and so forth. If the measure of mandatory testing merely has a legal framework but is not to be launched as early as possible, that will be no different from doing nothing at all.

This week, the authorities launched the ''LeaveHomeSafe'' app to help citizens keep a record of their whereabouts. In case anyone is diagnosed with the virus after visiting a place, it will be easier to identify people with suspected contact. However, public reception to the app on the first day was far from eager. The app failed to make it to the top 100 list. Many people either do not know clearly about the app's functions at all or do not know it can be downloaded.

The authorities claim that nearly 10,000 venues have participated in the ''LeaveHomeSafe'' scheme and they provide QR codes for citizens to scan voluntarily to keep a record of their entry into and departure from the venues. However, most of these venues are public government venues. Except for businesses most affected by the pandemic like bars, many private venues and sectors have not been enthusiastic about the scheme. Insufficient promotion by the authorities and their lack of close collaboration with private organisations have greatly reduced the effectiveness of the scheme.

明報社評 2020.11.17:抗疫半吊子 香港難脫困

政府就特定群組強制檢測定下法律框架,「安心出行」應用程式亦開始供市民下載,當局在病毒檢測和追蹤方面,多了兩項新工具,然而要實現疫情「基本清零」,徒有工具並不足夠,還須善加運用。現實經驗一再證明,部分高風險群組自願檢測率低,抗疫專家為了對症下藥,才提倡強制檢測,現在當局有了法律框架,依然左顧右盼,強制檢測未有啟動時間。「安心出行」首天下載情况未算踴躍,市民要麼不知道,要麼質疑太少場所提供二維碼。當局抗疫瞻前顧後,部分持份者亦未積極合作,香港抗疫半吊子,很難取得好成績。

本港疫情又現暗湧,政府再度收緊社交距離措施,除了食肆酒吧每枱人數限制收緊,當局亦會研究將酒店納入規管場所,限制每間客房不能容納超過4人等。特定群組強制檢測醞釀多時,當局終於定下法律框架,醫生判斷有病徵的人、在爆疫地點工作或生活的市民,以及高風險職業人員,諸如的士司機、院舍員工等,均須強制檢測,逾期拒驗可判罰款甚至監禁。

本港疫情遲遲無法做到14天清零,說明之前的抗疫工具力度不足。特定群組強制檢測和推行「安心出行」應用程式,有助彌補不足,問題在於執行。防疫措施影響生活,單靠各方自願配合難成大事,適度強制無可避免。7月第三波疫情爆發後,當局已先後為的士司機提供3輪免費自願檢測服務,惟每一輪的參與率都甚低。疫情爆發以來,累計已有45名的士司機染疫。

可是問到強制檢測何時啟動,政府僅表示視乎疫情及現行檢測參與率,「如果市民自動自覺全部檢測,就未必需要啟動」,云云。強制檢測徒有法律框架,卻不盡快啟動,跟不做沒有兩樣。

本周當局推出「安心出行」應用程式,方便市民記錄出入地點,一旦事後發現有人確診,可以較易找出懷疑接觸者。然而「安心出行」應用程式登場首天,反應未算踴躍,熱門下載程式百大不入,很多人根本不清楚程式作用,又或不知道可以下載。

當局聲稱已有近萬場所參與「安心出行」計劃,讓市民自願掃描二維碼記下出入資料,可是這些場所大都是政府公共場所,除了酒吧等最受疫情影響的行業,很多私人場所和行業並未積極響應;當局宣傳不足,與私人機構合作亦不夠緊密,令計劃成效大打折扣。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

half-baked /ˌhɑːf ˈbeɪkt/:not well planned or considered

lukewarm /ˌluːkˈwɔːm/:not interested or enthusiastic

shortfall /ˈʃɔːtfɔːl/:a deficit of sth required or expected

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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