英文

Editorial:Improvement of pandemic situation still fragile

【明報專訊】As COVID-19 infections have begun to subside in Hong Kong, the government has loosened the anti-pandemic restrictions for some types of venues. The quarantine period for inbound travellers from regions of middle to low risks can also be shortened. It is of course everyone's wish for the economy and people's livelihood to return to normal as early as possible, but the steps towards that end must be made cautiously. The government has strived hard for months to achieve ''zero infections'' and a glimmer of hope is finally on the horizon. At this critical moment, we must act cautiously every step of the way. The re-emergence of a local infection case of unclear origin yesterday (March 29) shows that there are still chains of asymptomatic transmission in the community. As the long holiday spanning the Ching Ming Festival and Easter is coming, we must be strictly on guard against a fifth wave of infections. It is true that people in all trades want to return to normal and every household has their own wish. But the government must give the highest consideration to ''preventing an internal rebound'' of infections when relaxing social distancing measures. In view of the volatility of the pandemic outside Hong Kong and the fact that the virus variants ravaging many countries are particularly contagious, the loosening of quarantine requirements for travellers from some regions must be handled with extra caution. Any loophole in the prevention of imported infections could spoil all previous hard work.

It has been nearly half a year since the start of the fourth wave of outbreaks, and a string of ''battles'' have been fought. At last, the city reported zero local infection again the other day for the first time in more than four months. Of course, as far as pandemic prevention and control is concerned, we need zero local transmission for 28 days in a row to get the all-clear. The city is still some way from the goal of ''zero infections'' set by the Hong Kong government. However, from a cautiously optimistic perspective, at least the target of achieving basic ''zero infections'' in Hong Kong is no longer a pipe dream.

After announcing last week that secondary and primary schools will be permitted to arrange more face-to-face lessons, the authorities made more announcements yesterday. Swimming pools can be reopened under certain conditions. The capacity cap on the number of visitors to cinemas and theme parks will also be increased. But to the disappointment of some industries, most of the existing social distancing measures will be extended to at least the middle of next month. However, as this is a critical juncture for pandemic control, the anti-pandemic measures should absolutely not be relaxed with undue haste. It may seem that the fourth wave of the pandemic has almost run its course. But if one carefully recalls the development in the past few months — including the restaurant cluster of infections related to Mr Ming's Chinese Dining and the recent fitness cluster, one will realise that the ''endgame'' has always gone into ''overtime''. The number of local infections without clear source has continued to drop but obviously there are still chains of asymptomatic transmission in the community. Yesterday's report of one case of unclear origin, which has broken the recent clean slate, was exactly a timely reminder of that.

As the pandemic eases off, there has been a significant increase in people's social activities in recent days. The anti-pandemic awareness may slacken off easily as a result. Furthermore, the Ching Ming and Easter holiday is coming and past experiences tell us that the pandemic often becomes volatile after a long holiday. At this moment, the most important point is to strictly guard against the emergence of the fifth wave of the pandemic after Easter. If there is no significant rebound in the number of local infections, there is certainly a chance that Hong Kong will achieve ''zero infections'' by the end of April. But in case the pandemic unfortunately rebounds, the efforts towards ''zero infections'' will go down the drain. In that case, no one will know to what extent people's livelihood and all the different sectors will continue to suffer. The cinema sector has recently called on the government to allow movie-goers to eat inside the theatres alongside loosening the cap on filling cinema seats. This actually means allowing the audience to take off their masks, which is problematic and undesirable.

明報社評 2021.03.30:隱形毒鏈從未切斷 疫情紓緩實質脆弱

本港疫情放緩,政府將放寬部分處所防疫限制,中低風險地區抵港人士的檢疫隔離日子,亦可縮短。經濟民生早日復常,當然是人心所欲,然而步伐一定要慎重,政府爭取疫情「清零」多月,最近終於看到一線希望,際此關鍵時刻,更要步步為營。昨天再現源頭不明個案,說明社區仍有隱形傳播鏈,清明復活節長假期將至,必須嚴防第五波疫情出現。百業急於復常,家家有求,政府放寬社交措施,必須以「內防反彈」為優先考慮;外圍疫情反覆,變種病毒肆虐多國,傳播能力尤強,現在放寬部分地區人士檢疫隔離要求,更要格外小心,外防輸入若現缺口,有可能前功盡廢。

第四波疫情爆發至今近半年,「戰疫」一場接一場,及至最近終於再度錄得本地「零確診」,是相隔4個多月來首次。當然,疫情防控做到28天本地零確診始算真正「清零」,現在距離港府定下的「清零」目標,尚有一段路程,然而從審慎樂觀的角度看,本港實現疫情基本「清零」,至少不再是遙不可及的夢想。

繼上周政府宣布中小學可以安排更多面授課堂,昨天當局又宣布,泳池可以有條件重開,戲院及主題公園入場人數上限亦獲提升,惟現行大部分社交距離措施,最少延長至下月中。部分行業對此感到失望,然而現在正是疫情控制關鍵時刻,放寬防疫措施,絕對不能操之過急。第四波疫情看似來到「水尾」,不過只要細心回想一下近月情况,由農曆新年過後的名潮食館群組,到最近的健身群組,不難發現這個「水尾」總是一再「加時作賽」。本港源頭不明個案呈持續下降趨勢,可是社區顯然仍有隱形傳播鏈,本地零確診昨天「斷纜」,錄得一宗源頭不明個案,正是一個適時提醒。

隨着疫情緩和,近期市民社交活動顯著增加,防疫意識容易鬆懈,加上清明復活節將至,根據以往經驗,長假期過後,疫情每每反覆,當下最重要是嚴防復活節後出現第五波疫情,倘若本地確診未見明顯反彈,本港有一定機會4月底「清零」;萬一疫情不幸反彈,「清零」功虧一簣,民生百業不知還要再受多少折騰。最近戲院業界提出放寬入座上限之餘,還要求准許客人在院內進食,這種變相容許觀眾除下口罩的做法大有問題,並不可取。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

volatility /ˌvɒləˈtɪləti/:the quality in a situation of being likely to change suddenly

run/take its course:to develop in the usual way and come to the usual end

go down the drain:to be totally wasted

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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