英文

Editorial:The suspension mechanism for Return2HK scheme

【明報專訊】A confirmed case of COVID-19 infection in Liwan District of Guangzhou has triggered a controversy surrounding the suspension mechanism for the Return2HK scheme. It was not until last night (May 24) that the Hong Kong government finally announced that the virus-ridden micro-district, where a case is located, rather than the entire province, will be used as the unit for determining the scope of the suspension mechanism for quarantine-free entry to Hong Kong. Late last year, the government came up with the idea of ''fighting the pandemic with precision'', trying to avoid imposing a blanket anti-pandemic measure rigidly on all sides. But the latest row shows that the authorities' actions are not consistent with this principle. The mainland has battled the pandemic with ferocious efficiency. Even when sporadic cases come up, the spread can be eradicated swiftly. In fact, the mainland's ability to basically maintain ''zero cases'' was the precondition for implementing the Return2HK scheme. The mainland has long abandoned the method of locking down an entire city for pandemic control. Rather, the precise approach of controlling the pandemic by locking down only the micro-district concerned has worked effectively. However, the suspension of the Return2HK scheme was applied to a whole province because of only one single case. From an anti-pandemic perspective, there are no reasons that the suspension mechanism for Return2HK should be stricter than those for travel bubble arrangements or flights. It is necessary for the Hong Kong government to enhance communication with the mainland and formulate a more reasonable suspension mechanism to guard against the import of the disease to avoid any more U-turns or confusion regarding information dissemination.

After the pandemic on the mainland began to ease off in early summer last year, the Hong Kong government launched the Return2HK scheme in November. Under the scheme, Hongkongers in Guangdong Province or Macao can enjoy quarantine exemption when they return to the city as long as they meet conditions like a negative nucleic test result. At the end of last month, the Hong Kong government even extended the scheme to cover other mainland provinces and municipalities. Last Saturday (May 22), the Hong Kong government suspended the scheme for Guangdong Province at one point because of a confirmed COVID case in Liwan District of Guangzhou, causing anxiety among many Hongkongers in Guangdong. Several hours later, the Hong Kong government clarified that Guangdong Province was not classified as a medium-risk place and the Return2HK scheme will remain unchanged for the province. The confusion reflects bureaucratic red tape in the work of the authorities, the lack of thoughtfulness in their policy decisions and their failure to co-ordinate well with the mainland.

The mainland divides all places into three levels of pandemic risk — high risk, medium risk and low risk. An area classified as high- or medium-risk must put in place strict quarantine arrangements. At present, there is not an area in the whole of China classified as high-risk. There are 23 medium-risk areas, of which 15 are in Liaoning Province, seven are in Anhui Province, and one is in Guangdong Province. However, it must be pointed out that smaller units, such as neighbourhoods, shopping centres or even buildings, are now used for assessing medium-risk areas on the mainland rather than an entire city or a whole province.

Regarding the latest confirmed case found in Guangzhou's Liwan District, the authorities have only listed a neighbourhood in Liwan as a medium-risk area. So far there has not been a sign of viral transmission in the community. Guangdong Province has a population of more than 100 million. More than 15 million people normally live in Guangzhou and Liwan District constitutes one-fifteenth of them. The Hong Kong government's way of treating the whole Guangdong Province as a medium-risk area and calling off Return2HK for the entire province only because of the emergence of a single case in the neighbourhood was obviously disproportionate.

When the Return2HK scheme was set up, it was based on the three levels of pandemic risk on the mainland. Why did the Hong Kong government switch to a large unit (i.e. the whole province) in place of the smaller unit of a micro-district when defining an area of medium risk? What were the scientific grounds for that? The authorities have never offered an explanation to the public. The lack of thoughtfulness in their policy decisions is obviously not only the problem of a department. The Hong Kong government must obviously review the whole matter afterwards.

明報社評 2021.05.25:「回港易」熔斷莫名其妙 精準抗疫須說到做到

廣州市荔灣區一宗新冠肺炎確診病例,引發一場有關「回港易」熔斷門檻的爭議,直至昨晚,港府始宣布,以爆疫小區而非全省作為熔斷單位。港府去年底提出「精準抗疫」,控疫措施避免一刀切,今次爭議卻反映當局知行未合一。內地抗疫雷厲風行,縱有零星個案,亦能迅速撲滅,具備「基本清零」能力,這是「回港易」可以實施的前提。內地早已不搞全面封城的一套,封閉小區精準控疫模式行之有效,從防疫角度,「回港易」的熔斷門檻,沒理由比旅遊氣泡或航班熔斷機制更嚴,僅因一宗個案便全省叫停。港府有必要加強與內地溝通,就外防輸入制訂一套更合理的熔斷機制,避免再有朝令夕改、信息發放混亂等情况。

去年初夏以來,內地疫情緩和,同年11月,港府實施「回港易」計劃,身處廣東省及澳門的港人,符合核酸檢測陰性等條件,可以豁免檢疫回港。上月底,港府更將「回港易」擴大至內地其他省市。上周六,港府以廣州市荔灣區發現一宗確診病例為由,一度叫停廣東省「回港易」,不少在粵港人一時間頗為徬徨,港府數小時後修正說法,澄清廣東省並非「中風險」地區,回港易安排維持不變。港府處理事件混亂,背後反映當局行事官僚因循,決策未有深思熟慮,與內地欠缺協調。

內地將疫情分為高中低3個風險類別,凡屬高、中風險者,均須嚴格執行隔離檢疫,目前全國沒有地方屬高風險地區,中風險地區則有23個,遼寧省佔15個,安徽省有7個,廣東省1個,然而必須指出的是,現在內地評估中風險地區,早已細分至以街區、商場甚至樓宇為單位,而非以整個市甚至全省為單位。

今次廣州市荔灣區發現確診個案,當局僅是將荔灣一個街區列為中風險地區,暫時未見社區傳播迹象。廣東省人口超過1億,廣州市常住人口逾1500萬,荔灣人口佔當中十五分之一,港府因為當地一個街區出現一宗病例,就將整個廣東省視為中風險地區,叫停全省「回港易」安排,明顯不合比例。

「回港易」安排,本來就是以內地高中低風險3級分類為憑據,為何港府之前要將中風險定義的範圍,由爆疫小區擴大至全省?背後究竟有何科學理據?當局從未有向外解釋。決策未有深思熟慮,明顯不是某一部門的問題,港府實有必要賽後檢討。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

blanket /ˈblæŋkɪt/:including or affecting all possible cases, situations or people

row /raʊ/:a serious argument between people, organisations, etc. about sth

sporadic /spəˈrædɪk/:happening only occasionally or at intervals that are not regular

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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