Editorial:Nothing Must be Left to Chance Fighting COVID

【明報專訊】Local COVID-19 cases related to Omicron have continued to increase. A supermarket storekeeper has contracted the virus from an unknown source, while an investigation is underway to determine the source of infection for a man and his daughter in Tuen Mun. All this shows the existence of invisible chains of transmission in the community.

Some government expert advisors believe that the fifth wave of the pandemic has already broken out. From a positive point of view, the number of local infections has not jumped exponentially, and there is still a chance for the pandemic to be brought under control. But the current developments of the pandemic certainly offer little cause for optimism. As the number of confirmed cases, close contacts and venues under compulsory quarantine continues to grow, quarantine facilities, vaccination centres and even testing services seem to be under strain. The waiting lists are long for vaccination and testing—only 15% of the units at the Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre are available immediately. The government has increased the number of vaccination points and, at the same time, shortened the isolation period at quarantine centres from 21 days to 14 days in view of Omicron's shorter incubation period. While these measures can temporarily relieve the pressure on the demand for these facilities, the government must be prepared that the situation may worsen and draft a contingency plan without further ado.

Suspected cases of unknown origin have appeared repeatedly. After a surveyor, a Tuen Mun resident, caught the virus, a department store assistant and her father were also infected. Thanks to an all-out investigation by the Centre for Health Protection, it has been determined that these cases can be traced back to either the male or female Cathay Pacific flight attendant. It is suspected that the surveyor was infected by the female flight attendant's mother at a restaurant in North Point. Meanwhile, the father-daughter case might be connected to the male flight attendant's visit to a Tuen Mun pharmacy that is run by the shop assistant's family late last month; though this needs to be confirmed by genetic analyses. In other words, these cases are interrelated as their transmission routes are all traceable. Once the chains of transmission are found, there is a chance to cut them off. In contrast, the route of infection for the supermarket storekeeper infected earlier remains unknown, meaning that the case is truly of unknown origin. The situation is worrying.

Hong Kong's fight against the pandemic is hanging by a thread. There have been endless discussions about the tightening of social distancing restrictions. Schools and parents are particularly concerned about the possible suspension of face-to-face classes. The suspension of on-campus classes will have significant ramifications, so of course, it'd be best if it could be avoided. But the decision must also depend on the situation of the outbreak. Recently, rumours of tightening pandemic restrictions have gone around online from time to time. Instead of following up with clarifications every time, perhaps it is better for the authorities to manage expectations by, for example, listing situations that may trigger the tightening of anti-epidemic measures, so that all parties could be better prepared.

Earlier, government expert advisor Yuen Kwok-yung criticised Hong Kong's contact tracing technology for being outdated, arguing that it needs a complete overhaul. Introducing a real-name system for the ''LeaveHomeSafe'' app is a sensitive issue that needs to be handled with care. Yet, in the face of the threat of the pandemic, the authorities need to constantly review all of their possible options and try to strengthen their virus tracking skills.

明報社評 2022.1.11:防疫不能心存僥倖 政府執法必須從嚴



疑似源頭不明個案一再出現,繼早前屯門測量師中招後,又有百貨公司女售貨員與父親染疫,經衛生防護中心全力追查,這兩組個案皆可追溯到國泰空姐或空少。測量師疑在北角一間餐廳受空姐母親感染,至於父女染疫,則可能跟空少上月底到過女售貨員家人在屯門經營的藥房有關,有待基因分析確認。換言之,這些個案皆是可以追查到傳播途徑的關連個案,找得到傳播鏈,就有機會將之切斷。相比之下,日前發現中招的超市理貨員,至今仍然未知感染途徑 ,個案名副其實源頭不明,情况令人憂慮。



■/ Glossary / 生字 /

without further ado

without delaying; immediately

ramification:one of the large number of complicated and unexpected results that follow an action or a decision

overhaul:an examination of a machine or system, including doing repairs on it or making changes to it


(Criticisms on this page, if any, are aimed at pointing out the errors or defects of certain systems or policies with a view to rectifying or eradicating such errors or defects,

as well as prompting improvement or remedy for them via lawful means. There is absolutely no intention of inciting hatred, discontent or hostility towards the government or other classes of the community.)

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