Oz findings given meat on virus fears

Local | Erin Chan 14 Oct 2020

Contactless payments should be stepped up to reduce infection risks, microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung said.

This comes as new Australian research found that the coronavirus can survive for up to 28 days on smooth surfaces such as banknotes.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, the government adviser expressed concern that banknotes may increase infection risks.

Yuen cited an example of an employee at a roasted meat shop whose work involves chopping and packaging meat then collecting money from customers.

"After the worker chops and packages the meat, they will wipe their hands on a piece of wet cloth and collect banknotes from customers...this process then repeats multiple times," he said.

"The banknotes or coins have been touched by multiple people [possibly infected with coronavirus], making the shops high risk areas."

The government should explore different digital payment methods with the business sector, Yuen said.

"The biggest problem is that Octopus card payments have not yet been expanded to wet markets, taxis and all restaurants," he said.

"Some may be concerned that [accepting payments via Octopus] means more administrative fees and it might affect the operation of their business."

Yuen also urged the government to prioritize tests for those with Covid-19 symptoms, saying it would be better to legalize the tests.

Quoting Hospital Authority figures, he said over 70 percent of the city's 5000 Covid-19 cases are symptomatic. "It shows that there is a high chance to single out those with symptoms," he said.

After testing those with symptoms, he said the government should test close contacts of confirmed cases, those living in the same building, then eventually workers in different sectors.

"Using Singapore as an example, most people with symptoms were tested and the cluster mainly covers foreign domestic helpers or workers there," he said.

Yuen also recommended testing be expanded to all outpatient clinics to enhance surveillance and specimens should be accepted by post for convenience, encouraging more to take the test.

He said citizens should be encouraged to record their whereabouts over the past 14 days so that the Department of Health can do contact tracing.

Asked about the Hospital Authority "settling the score" with medical personnel who joined the strike earlier this year, Yuen said staff and management must work together on solving problems in a civil manner.

"But both sides should not be aggressive toward each other, and should think about what's best for Hong Kong," he said.

"The success of Hong Kong relies on different people playing their part in society and having a heart of tolerance."



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