Expert praises public's anti-virus awareness

Infectious disease expert Ho Pak-leung praised Hongkongers for their prompt response in fighting the Covid-19 virus, but criticized the government's "leaky" measures which came "too slow." Ho, talking on radio, said residents started wearing masks and washing hands frequently even before...

Justin Tong

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Infectious disease expert Ho Pak-leung praised Hongkongers for their prompt response in fighting the Covid-19 virus, but criticized the government's "leaky" measures which came "too slow."

Ho, talking on radio, said residents started wearing masks and washing hands frequently even before the first confirmed case broke out, adding that "Hongkongers have undoubtedly done well in the past two months."

He added: "Without our proactive efforts to stand against the adversity, the number of cases may have skyrocketed in less than a week - like it did in South Korea and Italy - especially because the population density in Hong Kong, such as in subdivided flats, is much higher than other infected locations."

This came after a top official at the World Health Organization complimented the Hong Kong government for being "very effective" in controlling the virus.

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies program, praised Hong Kong and Singapore for their "measures that have not involved walling off cities or completely banning travel [but] have been very effective in both suppressing and driving transmission down."

Ryan's comment echoed Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's Facebook post, in which she said the government's measures have been "science-backed and evidence-based" to control the epidemic "effectively."

While Ho admitted that the government has launched a range of "good policies," including requiring a health declaration for visitor arrivals and utilizing supercomputers to trace the transmission chain, he pointed out the response and the enforcement of the policies have to be improved.

He cited an example of a boundary control loophole where visitors can still travel between Hong Kong and the mainland via Macau ports.

"The government should ensure no flaw in its policies at critical moments in order to completely combat the epidemic," he stressed.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, where the number of cases is ranked highest after China, the government announced an 11.7 trillion won (HK$76 billion) stimulus package to support medical institutions, small businesses and childcare services in fighting the virus.

In Italy, where the highest number of deaths outside China occurred, an official said the country is setting up a new quarantine red zone in Bergamo, northeast of Milan, near its most seriously infected area.

The worst-hit European country set up two red zones last month - one across 10 towns in Lombardy, southeast of Milan, and another in the neighboring region of Veneto - but failed to contain the virus.

South Korea and Italy confirmed 293 and 466 new cases in their latest announcement, bringing the total up to 5,621 and 2,502 respectively.

justin.tong@singtaonewscorp.com