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Analysis-Clear Roadmap needed for Hong Kong’s revival as COVID sweeps through the city -experts According to Reuters


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: General view of a temporary bridge from Shenzhen to Hong Kong to transport materials and workers for the construction of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) isolation facility in Lok Ma Chau, during the COVID pandemic -19 in Hong Kong, China, March 9, February

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By Farah Master

HONG KONG (Reuters) – In less than two months, Hong Kong has gone from one of the best places in the world for COVID-19 control to one of the worst.

The death toll has skyrocketed, the health system is overwhelmed, the morgues are overflowing, and public trust in the city’s government is at an all-time low.

While the government follows a similar “no COVID” policy as in mainland China, city leader Carrie Lam hinted on Thursday that she could ease restrictions amid concerns about the status of her country. position of the city as a global financial center.

But with infections spilling over into the mainland and local cases hovering around 30,000 people a day out of a population of just 7.4 million, a clear exit strategy is needed, tailored to learning how to get out. live with the virus, just like other big cities. rather than trying to get rid of it, health experts say.

Densely populated Hong Kong has recorded a death toll per million globally in recent weeks – more than 24 times that of rival Singapore – due to a large proportion of unvaccinated elderly people such as an Omicron variant. High potential for transmission has passed through care homes since February.

Tragedy could be avoided if authorities encouraged vaccination and more efficient use of health resources to prepare for COVID-19, first identified in late 2019 in the United States, experts say. Wuhan city, central China.

Dr David Owens, founder of the OT&P clinic and emeritus clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said: “The catastrophe in our hospital system is inevitable. predictable, preventable and political”.

Lam’s administration has been repeatedly criticized by politicians, pro-Beijing media and on Chinese social media, just weeks before the city is due to hold an election on May 8. to choose who will lead the territory for the next 5 years.

Businesses and residents are frustrated by what they see as a continued mixed message from the government and measures that have disrupted business heavily and damaged the economy for most of two years. via.

Tens of thousands have already left, with net outflows showing more than 45,000 emigrated so far in March, compared with nearly 17,000 in December before the fifth wave of the pandemic hit, causing raised concerns about Hong Kong’s long-term competitiveness.

LIVE WITH COVID

Lam has yet to offer guidance on how Hong Kong can return to some normalcy, despite daily press conferences where she discussed details from sewage tests to thanking mainland authorities. supported. The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Hong Kong is definitely not ready when we enter the fifth wave as clearly demonstrated, but let’s see if we can be better prepared for that transition to normal.” Gabriel Leung, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong and a government adviser on pandemics.

Leung said Hong Kong needs to decide whether it will follow a “zero-COVID” policy or try to live with it as an endemic species.

“We need to do all that heavy thinking right now. Because you have to plan accordingly.”

Experts say that even if the government sticks to zero-COVID with mass testing and widespread contact tracing, Hong Kong will eventually need to transition to living with the virus.

About half of the city’s residents are likely already infected, according to a study from the University of Hong Kong this week.

Increasing vaccination rates to more than 90% from around 80% today is key, experts say, while protecting the most vulnerable, like those in nursing homes. Currently, only 56% of people over 80 have been vaccinated.

Dr Siddharth Sridhar, clinical associate professor of microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said: “With people developing immunity from vaccinations and infections, there is a chance of future outbreaks future will be less severe.

“So that gives us a certain degree of freedom in terms of opening up more and having more reasonable travel restrictions than we’ve seen before.”

Hong Kong has implemented the most draconian measures since the pandemic began in 2020.

Flights from nine countries, including the US and UK, are banned. Domestic travelers who test negative on arrival must stay at the hotel for 14 days, a tougher rule for an infected resident to quarantine for seven days until testing negative.

Both regulations have no scientific basis and should be lifted immediately, some experts said.

Epidemiologist Ben Cowling said social distancing measures, such as a ban on public gatherings of more than two people, the closure of most locations and a restaurant curfew after 6 p.m. could also be eased gradually, epidemiologist Ben Cowling said.

Hong Kong could aim to do what Singapore did so that after “three to six months, when all those measures have been eased, it is up to individuals to manage their own risk simply up to them.” and there is no need for community-wide policies”.



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