Testing rush doesn't help

Editorial | Mary Ma 21 Jul 2020

The steep increase in Covid-19 cases has caught the city offguard. So far, few have pointed out convincingly which parts of the local pandemic control have gone wrong.

Some have tried to blame "loopholes" at the border, while others attribute the rise to family and social gatherings on Father's Day.

The problem is that nobody - including Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection - can answer the question with certainty.

It was stating the obvious when Chuang warned that we would not know we had reached the peak until it had passed.

Only when those in charge are able to discover which part, or parts, of the dam have been breached will the city be able to contain the spread and deal with it methodically.

The administration has reactivated some social distancing measures, including a de-facto curfew on people dining out at night, ordering civil servants to work from home and shutting down some facilities that were reopened only recently.

But the numbers are continuing to rise by alarming digits.

If people were confident about the pandemic control after the first outbreaks earlier in the year, they are now clearly very nervous. It is crucial for the administration to assure them that it is still on top of the situation.

Testings form an indispensable part of the response strategy.

Although I am pleased to hear health authorities say the number of daily testings has risen to over 10,000 - several thousand more than the minimum called for by leading microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung - they certainly cannot cope with the current development.

If the public were deterred in the beginning by the expensive cost of undergoing tests in private hospitals, they are now willing to pay a premium fee in exchange for a sense of security.

But they still have to wait at the back of queues that are getting longer each day.

Some flocked to the accident and emergency wards at public hospitals, hoping to be tested. This is not encouraged as it makes work more difficult at the hospitals, which are already overloaded with patients. The public should help save the public health-care system and avoid going to A&E unless they have developed symptoms.

Tsz Wan Shan has been the blackspot in the latest outbreaks. As a result, there were reports of runs in the district on daily grocery items, from food to toilet rolls. Some local residents had to go to other districts to buy their daily necessities. These were all signs of anxiety.

As people scramble to be tested, it's important to note that testings alone will not stop the coronavirus, as is evident by the US experience.

Increased testings have to be supported with a corresponding strengthening in medical capacity because more virus carriers are bound to be identified.

It may be tempting to impose lockdowns barring people from leaving home. But would this cause instant panic?

The government must think about it carefully to make sure there are proper logistical supports for households before rushing to announce such a drastic move.

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June 2021

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