英文

Editorial:How to ensure that there is not a fifth wave

【明報專訊】The fourth wave of the pandemic has been plaguing Hong Kong for three months. Yesterday (February 3), the number of new cases dropped to less than 20 in a single day for the first time in nearly a month and a half, which is at least good news, although it cannot be said that the pandemic has been brought under control. The government is planning a return to normal economic and bread-and-butter activities, with the opening of borders, resumption of classes and gradual restoration of normal public services. However, whether the government can bring the number of cases to zero so that sporadic cases can be quickly eliminated even if they arise is still of crucial importance when it comes to whether a sustainable return to normal can be achieved.

Hong Kong has been fighting the pandemic for more than a year. In each wave, the battle has been fiercer and longer than the previous one. The fourth wave of infections surfaced in early November last year. The situation has kept evolving. At the beginning those infected were mainly from the singing and dancing cluster, which comprised people from middle and upper social strata. But recently, it has been people from the grassroots strata living in old districts that have constituted the most cases. The number of confirmed cases in a single day dropped to 19 yesterday after a series of bitter battles. For the public, a dozen cases or so are something that has not been seen for more than a month.

The government has recently mentioned a number of resumption arrangements. In primary and secondary schools, the Education Bureau has laid down some conditions for the resumption of face-to-face classes. After the Lunar New Year holiday, schools can, according to the needs, consider arranging for more students to return to school. If a school can arrange regular testing of all staff every two weeks, it can, conditionally, resume face-to-face classes for half a day. As for the gradual restoration of government services, it will be supported by the expanded use of the ''Leave Home Safe'' app. In the first phase, people will be ''strongly recommended'' to scan the ''Leave Home Safe'' QR code when entering and leaving the government headquarters, which the government says will make tracking easier if there is an outbreak. The second phase will start after the Lunar New Year, and the measure will be extended to more government offices and buildings.

As the fourth wave of the outbreak slows down gradually, the authorities need to figure out how to avoid a fifth wave of the pandemic while planning for a ''conditional return to normal''. The key to success on the mainland is that it has found a highly effective way of eliminating the virus, so that even if there are sporadic infections, they can be eliminated quickly. As an alternative plan, Hong Kong's ambush-style campaign against COVID-19 seems to have produced some initial successes. However, it remains to be seen whether it will be possible to bring the number of cases to zero, and the concrete way it is executed should be improved. There are experts who are worried that the reliance on positive test results of sewage samples to determine whether the building should undergo compulsory testing will result in the risk of undetected cases.

When it comes to the prevention of imported cases, the second wave of the outbreak was triggered by the return of a large number of Hong Kong people's offspring from Europe and the US during the Easter holidays last year. At that time, experts already suggested using designated hotels to deal with high-risk arrivals. However, government officials cited various reasons and did not adopt the plan, dawdling for more than half a year before deciding to implement it before Christmas. As for the prevention of a rebound of cases domestically, although the government's ambush-style measures to control the pandemic are more aggressive than before, the authorities have not yet shown the determination to close the loopholes in the repeated outbreaks of the pandemic on infrastructural sites and adopt experts' call for regular mandatory testing.

明報社評 2021.02.04:基本清零迅速掃蕩 確保疫情無第五波

第四波疫情困擾香港3個月,昨天單日新增病例回落至低於20宗水平,是近一個半月來首次,雖仍談不上疫情受控,至少也是一個好消息。政府開始謀劃經濟民生復常,通關、復課、逐步恢復正常公共服務等,然而當局能否做到基本清零、縱有零星病例亦能迅速撲滅,始終是實現可持續復常的關鍵。

香港抗疫一年有餘,戰鬥一波比一波慘烈,時間一波比一波長。去年11月初,第四波疫情浮現,抗疫形勢一再演化,由原先以社會中上層為主的歌舞群組,變成近月以基層為主的舊區群組。經過連場苦戰,單日新增確診昨天降至19宗,對市民而言,「1」字頭低雙位數,已是個多月未見。

最近政府提及多項復常安排,中小學恢復面授課堂方面,教育局開出條件,農曆新年假期後,學校可按校本需要,酌量安排更多學生回校上課,若有學校能安排全校教職員定期每兩周檢測一次,有條件全校恢復半天面授課堂;逐步恢復政府服務方面,當局則以擴大使用「安心出行」應用程式來配合,首階段會「強烈建議」所有出入政府總部的人,掃描「安心出行」二維碼,一旦爆疫就易於追蹤,第二階段則於農曆新年後展開,有關措施將擴至更多政府合署及大樓。

第四波疫情徐徐放緩,當局籌謀「有條件復常」之餘,更要想清楚如何避免出現第五波疫情。內地控疫成功之道,在於找到一套高效方法,做到基本清零,縱現零星感染,亦能迅速撲滅。香港這套「掃蕩病毒」替代方案,初步看來似有一定成效,是否一定可以做到基本清零,還須觀察,具體執行操作亦要完善。以污水陽性樣本決定大廈要否強檢,亦有專家擔心存在走漏風險。

外防輸入方面,去年復活節大批港人子弟從歐美返港,引發第二波疫情,當時已有專家提出用指定酒店處理高風險抵港者,可是政府官員卻搬出種種理由,未予採納,拖了半年有多,聖誕節前才下定決心執行;內防反彈方面,現在政府的控疫掃蕩措施,雖比之前進取,可是對於基建地盤一再爆疫、專家呼籲定期強檢等,當局仍未有決心堵漏。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

resumption /rɪˈzʌmpʃn/:the act of beginning sth again after it has stopped

crucial /ˈkruːʃl/:extremely important, because it will affect other things

dawdle /ˈdɔːdl/:waste time; be slow

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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