英文

Editorial:Stringent Measures to Tackle 5th Wave

【明報專訊】In Hong Kong, a fifth wave of the pandemic is looming. The number of cases related to a previously infected Cathay Pacific flight attendant has continued to increase. The government has significantly tightened social distancing restrictions, bringing back measures including the closure of scheduled premises and a ban on dining-in at night-time.

Omicron is bearing down on the city. Yet another flight attendant cluster might have emerged on the heels of the Moon Palace cluster. The Centre for Health Protection announced yesterday (5 January) the addition of 4 preliminary positive cases that may be from an unknown source or suspected to be related to imported cases. As for the mother of the Cathay Pacific flight attendant who was infected earlier, her diagnosis has also been confirmed. In addition, it has turned out that 9 close contacts related to the cluster of infections had boarded a local cruise ship carrying more than 3,000 people for a high seas cruise. Unnerved by this revelation, the authorities recalled the cruise ship hastily. Fortunately, all of the 9 people's preliminary results were negative. It is very lucky indeed that the case of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which happened the year before last, has not repeated itself.

So far, the number of local Omicron cases in Hong Kong has remained in single digits. However, there is evidence that various sequences of transmissions have already occurred in the community. An investigation by the Centre for Health Protection shows that the infected flight attendant infected her mother, and the latter spread the virus to at least one of her friends in her dance group and a foreign domestic helper. After comparing the genetic analyses of the virus on each carrier, the previously discovered case of unknown origin in Tuen Mun is now believed to be connected to the infected flight attendant. The authorities said that the man of the case with no known source passes Victoria Park in Tin Hau during his usual commute to work, while the flight attendant's mother dances at Victoria Park. However, there should have been a 20-metre distance between the two of them at Victoria Park. While transmission via ''long-distance contact'' cannot be ruled out, a more likely explanation would be a transmission that happened when both of them visited a restaurant in North Point on New Year's Eve. It is currently difficult to say the extent to which Omicron has spread in the community. Government expert advisers estimate that there may be 5 to 10 invisible chains of transmission in the community, meaning that the pandemic situation is extremely precarious.

Omicron is the most transmissible COVID-19 mutant strain that has come about since the outbreak of the pandemic. Over the past two weeks alone, the world has already added more than 11 million cases related to Omicron. The US once recorded over a million cases within a single day, while the UK and France logged record-breaking numbers of over 200,000 daily cases. Although Omicron is not as lethal as the previous COVID-19 strains, the huge numbers of hospitalised patients will still put the healthcare systems of different parts of the world under extraordinary pressure. The number of people hospitalised recently in the US has even topped its counterpart during the peak of the previous Delta outbreak.

During the Lunar New Year holidays in the year before last, the first wave of the pandemic occurred in Hong Kong. Last year's Spring Festival was plagued by the fourth wave. It is quite likely that the Spring Festival will be overshadowed by the pandemic again this year. The Centre for Health Protection says that among the clusters of infected people, the unvaccinated have a higher viral load, while the vaccinated have a generally lower viral load and little or no symptoms. People who have not received the vaccine should do so as soon as possible. The government should also hasten to boost the vaccination rate.

明報社評 2022.1.6:落重藥防疫情海嘯 如常過年談何容易

本港第五波疫情一觸即發,染疫國泰空姐相關個案持續增加 ,政府大幅收緊社交距離限制,關閉表列處所、禁晚市堂食等措施重臨。

Omicron來勢洶洶,繼望月樓感染群組之後,可能又有空姐群組。衛生防護中心昨天表示,再有4宗暫列源頭不明或疑與輸入病例相關的初步陽性個案,至於早前染疫國泰空姐的母親,亦證實確診。另外,9名與感染群組相關的密切接觸者,原來日前登上載有3000多人的本地郵輪參加公海遊,更令當局大為緊張,需要急召郵輪折返,可幸初步檢測發現9人皆為陰性,類似前年鑽石公主號郵輪大規模爆疫的情况未有重演,實屬幸運。

迄今香港的Omicron本地感染個案仍屬單位數,可是有證據顯示,病毒已在社區出現多代傳播。防護中心調查顯示,染疫空姐感染母親,後者則將病毒傳播給至少一名跳舞朋友及外傭。之前發現的屯門源頭不明個案,經病毒基因分析比對,相信亦跟染疫空姐有關。當局表示,源頭不明個案男子平日上班會路過天后維園,空姐母親則會在維園跳舞,惟兩人在維園活動的範圍,應該有20米距離,「遠距離接觸」感染無法排除,不過較大的可能,應該是兩人除夕分別光顧北角一間餐廳,其間發生感染。究竟Omicron在社區擴散到什麼程度,目前難以斷言,政府顧問專家估計,現時社區可能有5至10條隱形傳播鏈,防疫形勢非常嚴峻。

Omicron是疫情爆發以來傳播力最強的變種病毒株,單是過去兩周,全球已新增逾1100萬宗相關個案,美國試過單日新增過百萬宗,英法單日也錄得破紀錄的20多萬宗,雖然Omicron不及之前的新冠病毒株致命,可是大量病人入院,依然令各地醫療系統大受壓力,美國近日染疫住院人數,較早前Delta疫情高峰期還要高。

前年農曆新年期間,香港出現第一波疫情,去年春節則受第四波疫情困擾,今年香港頗有可能又要在疫情陰霾下過節。衛生防護中心指出,感染群組中,病毒量較高者均沒有接種疫苗,有打針者病毒量一般較低又或沒有病徵,未打針的市民,應該盡快接種新冠疫苗,政府更要加快谷針。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

unnerve:to make sb feel nervous or frightened or lose confidence

precarious:not safe or certain; dangerous

lethal:causing or able to cause death

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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