This is why we must not drop our guard

Editorial | Mary Ma 8 Jul 2020

Yesterday's Covid-19 outbreak with so many cases is cause for grave concern. Not only was the number of new local infections more than expected, but they were scattered without an obvious link to an apparent cluster that could be traced to a single source.

While I have little doubt that experts at the Centre for Health Protection are doing everything at their disposal to locate and isolate close contacts, my concern is that Hong Kong is close to a new wave of outbreaks - if we are not already there.

Everyone must do their part to minimize the risk, including continuing to wear masks despite the hot weather.

Since the coronavirus pandemic spread worldwide, countries in Asia, Europe and North America have reported a resurgence of new cases. Localized lockdowns have been reimposed in a number of countries including Britain, Germany, Spain and the United States to contain the spread.

President Donald Trump claimed the US surge had more to do with an increase in tests which discovered cases that would not have previously shown up.

Although critics were right to hold him responsible for Americans' lukewarm reactions to wearing masks in public in some of the hard-hit states, he wasn't totally wrong in pointing to the fact that more tests are being conducted.

A lower death rate, based on increased tests, tends to lend credence to the assertion.

Even though Hong Kong may be conducting more tests than before, my concern is that the cases that came to light yesterday were discovered after the infected fell sick.

Furthermore, these cases did not share a common connection, being traced to a noodle shop, a cha chaan teng eatery, a hotpot restaurant, some schools, a care home for the elderly and the Hospital Authority.

Unlike in Europe and the United States, where the pandemic has claimed many lives at care homes for the elderly, such facilities in Hong Kong have done very well up to now in keeping their residents safe from a virus that has been found to be more deadly towards the elderly and the chronically ill.

Perhaps, as restrictions were eased, so was vigilance among the public.

It is unlikely that the infection of the Hospital Authority staff member - who was not a frontline medical worker - was connected to the workplace.

Perhaps the virus was contracted elsewhere - the authority pointed out the worker had been to Disneyland.

Meanwhile, although schools are being reopened gradually, the affected ones had no choice but to suspend classes again. A wider question is whether the exercise to steadily open schools should be disrupted or not. Should efforts be made to keep them open until the start of the summer break?

The resurgence in infections poses a new challenge.

Some governments have modified their response strategy with a view to striking a balance between disease control and economic activities. As the SAR administration reviews the situation, it should consider the impact any new measure may have on small businesses.

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