英文

Editorial:Fight against COVID: Citizens Suffer from Poorly Managed Supporting Measures

【明報專訊】The new term of the Legislative Council (LegCo) has begun. During the question-and-answer session, the Chief Executive (CE) denied that the government's anti-epidemic work over the past two years had been riddled with mistakes, arguing instead that lawmakers should not ''level groundless accusations against hardworking anti-epidemic personnel''. Hong Kong has undoubtedly done a better job than most regions in the world in terms of minimising the cumulative numbers of confirmed cases and deaths. This is the fruit of a concerted effort. Tens of thousands of front-line personnel and medical workers have made indispensable contributions. Yet, there have been loopholes in the prevention of imported cases, poor execution and arrangements by the government and inadequacies in the supporting measures—things that have been discussed by all classes of society repeatedly over the past two years.

The new term of the LegCo after the electoral reform held its first meeting yesterday (12 January), marking a ''new era'' in Hong Kong's parliamentary politics. Due to the birthday party saga, the new term did not ''start fresh'' with the presence of all members, as some of them had to be in quarantine at Penny's Bay or at home. The CE's question-and-answer session became the focus. Unlike the intense confrontation between the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps in the past, yesterday's meeting was not very emotionally charged. Some of the councillors' questions were relatively pointed, but the tone of the CE's answers seemed to be even tougher. Amid the uproar caused by the birthday party saga, Carrie Lam stressed that there will be an investigation into whether the officials who attended the party had broken any pandemic restriction rules. During yesterday's question-and-answer session, no political party members or lawmakers asked about this. Concerning the topic of pandemic restrictions, most discussion was about the violation of in-house rules by aircrew members exempt from quarantine, and Cathay Pacific was the common target of criticism for the CE and some lawmakers.

On one hand, some lawmakers said that arrangement for Cathay aircrew to ''depart on passenger flights and return on cargo planes'' was a loophole more serious in nature than the birthday party saga. Meanwhile, Carrie Lam said that investigations showed that actually, some Cathay aircrew members shouldn't have earned quarantine exemptions via boarding a cargo plane back to Hong Kong, and that the government will take legal action if there is sufficient evidence. On the other hand, Cathay has emphasised to the media that from July to December last year, thousands of aircrew members were on duty aboard passenger planes departing from Hong Kong and stopped briefly at overseas destinations, during which they were completely isolated from the local communities, before returning to the city on cargo planes. The company is confident that the relevant duty roster arrangements ''fully comply'' with the Hong Kong government's anti-epidemic regulations at the time.

In November last year, government expert advisors proposed implementing a ''vaccine passport'' to boost the vaccination rate. The government had originally planned to enforce it at the end of this month. It is strange that while the authorities were preparing to boost the vaccination rate, they also reduced the number of community vaccination centres from 21 to 10 early this month. With the outbreak of the fifth wave, the number of vaccinated people has increased sharply. Many wanted to get the jab, only to find that the slots for the next few weeks had already been fully-booked. All this has made people feel that the government's countermeasures against the pandemic have been poorly arranged. Hong Kong's case numbers are already very low. Still, the government seems flustered in its response to the situation. If, unfortunately, a major outbreak happens, the inadequacy of anti-epidemic facilities will be unimaginable.

明報社評 2022.1.13:抗疫配套安排差 市民受罪排長龍

新一屆立法會開鑼,行政長官出席答問會,否認過去兩年抗疫錯漏百出,反指議員不應「盲目指控努力抗疫人員」。論累計確診和死亡數字,香港無疑比全球大多數地區好,這是集體努力成果,萬計前線人員和醫護功不可沒,可是外防輸入有漏洞、政府執行安排差、防疫配套跟不上,兩年來社會上下確也談過不知多少回。

選舉制度修改後產生的新一屆立法會,昨天舉行首次會議,標誌香港議會政治進入「新時代」。受生日宴事件影響,新議會新開始卻無法齊人,部分議員須在竹篙灣檢疫又或自我隔離。行政長官答問成為焦點,有別於以往泛民建制激烈對抗,昨天會議火藥味不多,個別議員提問較為尖銳,似乎還不及特首回答的語氣強硬。生日宴風波鬧得喧喧囂囂,林鄭強調將調查與聚官員有否違反防疫要求。昨天答問會,並無政黨或議員就此提問,防疫議題談得較多的,是豁免檢疫機組人員違規外出,國泰成為特首和部分議員共同批評的對象。

有議員表示,國泰機組人員「客機去貨機返」的防疫漏洞,比生日宴風波更嚴重;林鄭則說調查顯示,有些國泰機組人員其實不應通過貨機返港享受豁免,若有足夠證據,當局將採取法律行動。另一邊廂,國泰則向傳媒強調,去年7至12月,數以千計機組人員在離港客機執勤,於海外航點短暫停留,其間完全與社區隔離,其後再經貨機返港,公司有信心相關更表安排「完全符合」當時港府防疫規定。

去年11月,政府專家顧問已提出落實疫苗護照「谷針」,政府原也打算本月底推行,奇怪是當局一邊準備谷針,另一邊卻於本月初將社區疫苗接種中心由21間減至10間。隨着第五波疫情爆發,打針人數急增,很多人想打針,卻發現未來數周預約已滿。凡此種種,都令人覺得政府應對疫情安排很差。現時本港個案已屬很少,政府應對仍然顯得手忙腳亂,倘若不幸大爆發,實在不敢想像抗疫設施不敷應用情况。

■/ Glossary / 生字 /

be riddled with sth:to be full of sth, especially sth bad or unpleasant

concerted:a concerted effort etc is done by people working together in a carefully planned and very determined way

uproar:a situation in which there is a lot of public criticism and angry argument about sth that sb has said or done

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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