No second wave as first one isn't done

Editorial | Mary Ma 15 Jun 2020

It was amazing to attribute Dow Jones' plunge of more than 1,800 points last Thursday to fears of a second wave of the pandemic. Would it be too soon to blame a second wave when the first wave was far from over?

Although the situation has improved in some places, it has worsened in others.

The United States is still affected by the virus, with the epicenter shifting from New York to the hinterland, with Texas and Arizona bearing the brunt of late.

California has not yet emerged from the crisis due to a high population of Latin Americans whose big-family culture has made social distancing difficult.

All in all, the pandemic is rolling on with moving hotspots.

When the first outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China was hard hit. Then the epicenter shifted to Europe, with Italy and Spain suffering the most.

Britain still reports the highest daily counts among Europeans. Yet, it is slowing, and Europe has mostly regained control of the situation.

Other regions currently experiencing major outbreaks are Latin and South America, particularly Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Peru; the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Kuwait hardest hit; and South Asia, most notably India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Of course, China is again nervous - not because there have been new local cases, but because the new cases occurred in Beijing where control measures are supposed to be the most stringent of all.

The cluster at the massive Xinfadi wholesale food market in Beijing caught leaders by total surprise. Had the outbreak occurred in another city, it would have been less sensitive.

There is some good news, though. China has teamed up with Brazil to test a probable Chinese vaccine among Brazilians, and Britain's Oxford University is spearheading a vaccine development with trials on 10,000 volunteers.

Factories are being built in Britain and Europe to ensure supplies once approval is granted.

With that said, a high level of vigilance is necessary before vaccines become widely available.

Notwithstanding the need for continued vigilance, it should be viable for Hong Kong to work together with Macau and Guangdong to establish a common health protocol with a view to creating a "travel bubble" within which residents certified virus-clean may travel between the three places without having to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

A problem with the current proposed health QR code plan is that it will be expensive to get health clearance locally in the SAR.

Perhaps the government wishes to start with those doing business and working in the mainland, rather than tourists. This prudent approach makes sense as the situation is fluid and it is always better to be safe than sorry by testing the water.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to predict if the health code system will be launched as planned in light of the sporadic outbreaks here and in the north.

In addition to the "travel bubble," it is a legitimate concern that thousands of foreign domestic helpers will be flying in over the next few months. How will they be quarantined?

Bear in mind that most Hong Kong homes are too crowded and small for quarantine purposes.

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