英文

Editorial:Orderly Implementation of Vaccine Passports

【明報專訊】The COVID-19 variant Omicron has emerged in the community. Hong Kong's fight against the pandemic is hanging by a thread. Whether social distancing restrictions need to be tightened will depend on the development of the pandemic situation over the next few days. Those who have not received a vaccine should do so as soon as possible.

At present, the cases of local transmission of Omicron in Hong Kong have all been related to the Moon Palace restaurant at Festival Walk. No cases of unknown origin have been found for now. However, as people infected with Omicron may be asymptomatic and there are still six diners on that particular day who have yet to be tracked down, it remains to be seen whether the virus has already spread widely in the community. The Omicron variant is less lethal than the previous dominant virus strains. It is easy to take the variant lightly and even mistakenly shrug it off as ''just the flu''. However, local experts have pointed out that COVID-19 is the most contagious of all pandemics over the past century. Among the known variants of the virus, Omicron has the most staggering transmissibility, with a high basic reproduction number of 6 to 10 under the circumstance of zero anti-pandemic measures. This means one carrier of the virus can infect 6 to 10 people. Once a large-scale outbreak occurs, Omicron can still overwhelm the entire healthcare system.

The Lunar New Year is approaching. If the pandemic situation in Hong Kong takes a sharp turn for the worse, the tightening of social distancing restrictions will be something that needs to be stomached reluctantly, even though it will dampen the festive mood of the Chinese New Year holidays. The city is on the brink of a fifth wave. In the past two days, citizens' vaccination against COVID-19 has rebounded significantly. The number of people receiving the first dose within a single day has bounced back to over 10,000, but the overall vaccination rate in Hong Kong is still only around 70%. The vaccination rate of elderly people aged over 70, who need the jab for protection against the virus more than anyone else, is still less than 50%. There are still more than 600,000 people who have not gotten the jab.

Public health is of overriding importance. Pandemic restrictions cannot be done willy-nilly. After all talk of reason is done, it will be time for taking more forceful and effective measures to boost the vaccination rate. Many countries have vaccine passport systems, which have shown noteworthy effects in boosting the vaccination rate. France is a success story, and precedents are many for Hong Kong to reference. Compared with some Western countries' imminent mandatory vaccination plans, vaccine passports are already a relatively mild measure. There is not any bone of contention to be seen on the ideological level. The immediate question is not whether to do it, but how to do it well.

COVID-19 vaccination is free of charge. Unlike the use of the ''LeaveHomeSafe'' app, there is not an apparent problem of a digital divide. People without a mobile phone can use physical vaccine cards or vaccination records in paper forms. As for exemption arrangements, except for children whose vaccination has yet to be approved, very few people—only those who have proof of unsuitability for vaccination as supported by a medical certificate—can be exempt from vaccination when entering specific venues. The specific operation should be easier than that concerning ''LeaveHomeSafe''. As shown in the execution of such measures in foreign countries, falsified vaccination records are a relatively common problem. The authorities should study how to deal with it as soon as possible and formulate penalties that can serve as a deterrent.

明報社評 2022.1.4:疫苗護照有序推展 谷針過年大我為先

Omicron變種病毒株在社區出現,香港防疫如履薄冰,是否需要收緊社交限制,還看未來數天疫情發展,尚未接種疫苗的市民,應該盡快打針。

目前本港出現的Omicron本地感染個案,全都跟又一城望月樓有關,暫未發現源頭不明個案,惟因Omicron感染者未必有病徵,加上當日仍有6名在場食客未能追蹤到,病毒是否已在社區廣泛傳開,仍需時間觀察。Omicron致命性,比之前的主流病毒株為低,容易令人掉以輕心,甚至誤以為可以將它當成流感,然而本地專家指出,新冠病毒是百年來歷次疫情大流行中傳播力最強的一次,而在已知變種病毒株中,則以Omicron傳播力最為驚人,在沒有防疫措施介入下,基本繁殖數高達6至10,意即一人可以傳染6至10人,一旦大規模爆發,仍可壓垮整個醫療系統 。

農曆新年將至,倘若本港疫情急轉直下,收緊社交限制,影響過年過節,亦是無可奈何。第五波疫情一觸即發,這兩天市民接種新冠疫苗的情况,較之前有明顯反彈,打第一針的市民,回升到單日過萬人的水平,可是全港疫苗接種率仍然只得七成左右,最需要打針保護的70歲以上長者,接種率依然不足一半,尚有逾60萬人未打針。

公共衛生具有凌駕性,防疫不能任性,說之以理階段結束,就要採取更加強而有力手段谷針。很多國家都有疫苗護照制度,谷針效果明顯,法國是成功例子,香港有大量先例可援。比起部分西方國家準備強制國民打針,疫苗護照已屬相對溫和舉措,看不到意識形態層面有何值得爭拗,眼前問題不是做或不做,而是如何做好。

新冠疫苗免費接種,不像使用「安心出行」般面對較明顯的數碼鴻溝問題,無手機者可以用實體針卡或針紙,至於豁免安排方面,除了兒童未獲批准打針,只有持醫生紙證明無法打針的人,才可免打針出入指定地方,涉及人數很少,具體操作應較安心出行簡單。參考外國執行經驗,偽冒針卡針紙是較為常見的問題,當局應及早研究如何處理,以及制訂具阻嚇力的罰則。

■/ Glossary / 生字 /

brink:a situation when you are almost in a new situation, usually a bad one

overriding:more important than anything else in a particular situation

deterrent:sth that makes sb less likely to do sth

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

上 / 下一篇新聞