Medical experts urge Hong Kong govt to consider curfew


Pedestrians prepare to walk across a main road in Hong Kong on July 20, 2020. - AFP

HONG KONG (China Daily/ANN): Two medical specialists are recommending that the Hong Kong government adopt a curfew and perhaps even a lockdown as the city faces growing pressure to contain a worsening third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yuen Kwok-yung, a leading microbiologist in Hong Kong, said the authority should consider imposing a citywide curfew or a lockdown to prevent people from leaving their homes if the number of confirmed cases continues to rise in the next seven to 14 days.

In an interview with a local radio programme, Yuen cautioned the public to put on their masks and not to relax before a vaccine is available.

David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory-medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a different radio interview that lockdown measures might be necessary if current measures fail to improve the situation.

Public hospitals in Hong Kong would be overwhelmed within a week if nearly 100 cases were added daily and if most have an unknown origin, he said. Seventy-three new infections were recorded on Monday.

The SAR government announced on Sunday that a series of social distancing measures will be extended until July 28, including mandatory mask-wearing in all indoor public areas and a ban on dining at restaurants from 6pm to 5am.

Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s Communicable Disease Branch, on Monday said that in the 16 days from July 5 through Monday, 560 local infections were recorded, with about a third of the infections unlinked to confirmed cases or existing outbreaks, signalling that hidden chains of transmission are widespread. The city’s tally of confirmed cases reached 1,958, including 12 related deaths.

If the situation continues to deteriorate, the government may need to tighten measures to maintain social distancing and identify asymptomatic patients, Chuang said.

Meanwhile, the city’s Education Bureau announced on Monday that classes in all Hong Kong schools, including international schools and kindergartens, will not start before Aug 17 because of the worsening Covid-19 pandemic situation in the special administrative region. Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said the government noticed that some schools had planned to start earlier than that.

Yeung said special arrangements will likely be necessary for cross-boundary students of secondary 4 to 6 students once the schools reopen, but are not likely to be made for Secondary 3 or junior classes at the beginning of the new school year.

Lai Tsz-man, principal of Hing Tak School in Tuen Mun, said the school will fully cooperate with the policies, while ensuring students acquire skills and knowledge without going to the school.

He also said that once the epidemic stabilises, the school will deliver some make-up lessons for these cross-boundary students, hoping that will help them catch up on their studies.

Eric Chung Pui-yeung, a secondary-5 cross-boundary student, said he is worried that the delay will affect his learning progress as he will have only six months to prepare for his college entrance examination if the new school year starts in September. What’s more, the commencement date for the new school year may be further delayed, he said.

Although the school provided online courses during the pandemic, Chung said he preferred to attend class in person for more effective learning. - China Daily/Asia News Network

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