英文

Editorial : In-person Class Suspension and Vaccination for Children

【明報專訊】The city's pandemic situation has become quite worrying with increasing reports of infected residents in Tuen Mun, including a primary six student. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has warned that there may be hidden transmission chains in the district. As the number of local Omicron cases continues to grow, many schools have been included in the compulsory testing list. Compared with most secondary school teachers and students who have already been vaccinated, children aged under 12 have yet to receive the jab and are therefore at particularly high risk. If they catch the disease, it is highly likely that the elderly and the weak in their family will also get infected by the virus they bring home. Although the government's announcement of suspending in-person classes at primary schools and kindergartens starting this Friday will have significant ramifications, it is a necessary step to take. What has been done on the mainland and in overseas countries shows that COVID-19 vaccines can be administered to children under 12. The Hong Kong Government has decided to lower the age threshold for the Sinovac vaccine to five, which can help protect children. If the BioNTech vaccine also obtains the approval, parents will have an even wider choice of vaccines. Vaccinating children is an important step towards city-wide immunisation. The authorities should step up publicity efforts to explain and reinforce the importance and safety of vaccinating children to parents.

After an earlier case of a suspected transmission of the virus at a North Point restaurant from an infected female flight attendant's mother to a surveyor who lives in Tuen Mun, more cases involving Tuen Mun residents have also been reported recently. The parents and the younger brother of a saleswoman diagnosed earlier were also infected. The case of the infected family of four in Tuen Mun is a concerning one. An investigation shows that the father, who runs a pharmacy in Tuen Mun, is likely to have been the first in the family to catch the disease. The authorities have found that an infected male Cathay Pacific flight attendant visited the pharmacy at the end of last month. As the owner of the pharmacy, the father did not see a doctor even though he had developed symptoms of fever on New Year's Day. Days later, his wife and son, a primary six student, got a fever successively and had to see a doctor. Because the aforementioned pharmacy had customers every day, if the father who owns it had already been infected more than 10 days ago, it would be likely that the spread of the virus has been going on for quite some time.

Given the fact that many of the infected people live in Tuen Mun, the CHP suspects that there are hidden transmission chains in the district. Normally, unvaccinated Omicron patients have a higher viral load than vaccinated ones and are therefore more likely to spread the disease. In the latest wave of outbreaks, citizens should learn from these cases—the female flight attendant's mother, the Tuen Mun surveyor and the family of four were all unvaccinated.

Now is the critical moment to halt the spread of the fifth wave before it develops into a tsunami. The measure of suspending face-to-face classes at the city's primary schools and kindergartens until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday has to be taken because there are no alternatives. Primary school students are bound to have weaker anti-epidemic awareness and self-care capabilities than secondary school students, let alone those still in kindergarten. In the case of an Omicron outbreak at a primary school or a kindergarten, one cannot rule out the possibility of a great number of students being infected and carrying relatively high viral loads. They may spread the virus to their families. And if any senior member of these families has not been vaccinated, the threat will be even greater.

The Hong Kong government announced yesterday (11 January) that children aged five or above will be eligible to get a Sinovac shot. Outreach teams will be sent to schools to provide vaccination services for students, marking a new stage of the COVID vaccination programme in Hong Kong. The authorities should encourage parents to allow their children to get vaccinated.

明報社評2022.1.12:小學面授無奈暫停 小童打針全力催谷

本地疫情堪憂,屯門一再發現感染者,包括一名小六學生,衛生防護中心警告,區內疑有隱形傳播鏈。Omicron本地個案持續增加,多間學校納入強制檢測名單,比起中學師生多已接種疫苗,12歲以下兒童尚未開始打針,風險尤高,一旦染疫很可能將病毒帶返家庭,感染家中老弱。政府宣布小學幼稚園周五起暫停面授課堂,影響雖大,卻有必要。內地和外國經驗顯示,12歲以下兒童可以打新冠疫苗,港府將科興疫苗接種年齡下限降至5歲,有助保護兒童,復必泰若提申請獲批,家長更可以有不同選擇。兒童打針是全民接種重要一環,當局應加緊向家長解釋宣傳,強調兒童打針的重要性和安全性。

繼早前屯門測量師疑在北角餐廳受確診空姐母親感染,當局近日再發現多宗涉及屯門居民的個案。日前證實感染的女售貨員,其父母與弟弟亦中招。屯門一家四口染疫,是一個很令人在意的家庭感染群組。調查顯示,在屯門經營藥房的父親,可能是家中最先染疫的人。當局發現染疫國泰空少上月底到過該藥房,身為店東的父親,元旦出現發燒症狀卻無求醫,他的妻子及就讀小六的兒子,則於數天後相繼因為發燒看醫生。鑑於每天都有客人出入涉事藥房,倘若東主父親10多天前已染疫,病毒很可能早已傳開。

防護中心基於多名感染者居於屯門,懷疑區內有隱性傳播鏈。未打針的Omicron感染者,病毒量一般高於已打針者,更易傳染他人,新一波疫情中,無論空姐母親、屯門測量師,還是今次染疫一家四口,全都沒有接種新冠疫苗,市民應該引以為鑑。

現在是遏阻疫情海嘯式爆發的關鍵時期,全港小學及幼稚園暫停面授課堂,直到農曆新年假期結束,有關措施亦屬無可奈何。小學生防疫意識及自理能力,一定不及中學生,幼稚園學童就更不用說,一旦Omicron疫情在小學或幼稚園爆發,不排除大批學童染疫兼病毒量偏高,他們可能將病毒傳染家人,家中若有長者未打針,面對威脅就更大。

昨天港府宣布,5歲或以上兒童可打科興,當局將派外展隊到校接種,標誌本港疫苗接種計劃踏入新階段,當局應鼓勵家長讓子女接種。

■Glossary

生字

threshold : the level at which sth starts to happen or have an effect

reinforce : to make a feeling, an idea, etc. stronger

eligible : a person who is eligible for sth or to do sth, is able to have or do it because they have the right qualifications, are the right age, etc.

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