The pandemic has slowed down and Hong Kong is heading for a return to normalcy. Yuen Kwok-yung, chair professor of the Department of Microbiology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, wrote an article today (7th) that Hong Kong must maintain the mentality of "peacetime as wartime, wartime as peacetime", and should reconnoiter as soon as possible in the future, so as to extinguish emerging infectious diseases at the source when they germinate and before they become epidemics.


The article pointed out that no one knows when the epidemic will come again, even if it is not an epidemic, it should be imported from outside; The private healthcare sector should improve its infection control hardware to avoid the collapse of the public healthcare system in the event of an outbreak. The Government wants to phase out the old residential care homes for the elderly; raising public awareness of health and hygiene, etc.


Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, Chair Professor of the Department of Microbiology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong (right), and Hung Fan-yi, Chair Professor of the Department of Medicine of the School of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong (left), discuss the need for early detection in the future to extinguish emerging infectious diseases at their source before they emerge. (File photo/Photo by Liao Yanxiong)

Yuen Kwok-yung, Hung Fan-yi, Honorary Associate Professor of the Department of Microbiology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, Lung Chun-pong, and Honorary Assistant Professor of the Department of Microbiology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, Zhao Xiyang, published a commentary in Ming Pao, pointing out that the fifth wave of the epidemic in Hong Kong started with an imported case through a quarantine hotel and then spread to the whole of Hong Kong, "No one knows when the epidemic will return, or 10 years, or next year, or tomorrow."

The team recommends that border control exemptions should also be reduced to prevent the flow of infection cases into Hong Kong. (File photo/Photo by Su Weiran)

Border port testing and reduction of exemption from foreign imports

Therefore, it is considered that the prevention of foreign importation should start from the present time, and it has become a routine practice to strictly screen inbound passengers with fever or illness and prepare tests at all border ports during non-epidemic periods, especially for travellers from hotspots such as Africa and the Middle East, where Ebola and MERS outbreaks are frequent.

For those who test negative and specimens of designated cases, the source of the disease should be searched by the next-generation ranking method. Passengers are also required to wear masks at all times and undergo epidemiological tracing. Border control exemptions should also be reduced to prevent the flow of infection cases into Hong Kong. The HA and the Department of Health should have the equipment, manpower and technology to rapidly scale up various nucleic acid tests, and be able to activate the pandemic mode within a short period of time, so as to fully detect asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic cases, so as to isolate and quarantine contacts and control the epidemic as soon as possible.

In the fifth wave of the epidemic, public hospitals were on the verge of collapse, and many temporary illnesses were placed outside the emergency department. (File photo/Photo by Ou Jiale, February 2)

Private medical machines need to upgrade hardware to buffer public systems

The article also pointed out that private healthcare institutions should not stay out of the situation, and that the profits can be used to improve the hardware related to infection control in hospitals, clinics and outpatient clinics, such as increasing the supply of fresh air and the ventilation rate of wards, and increasing the number of negative pressure isolation wards. In the event of a pandemic in the future, some of the more than 5000,<> beds in private hospitals can be converted into negative pressure isolation beds, providing a large buffer space for a short period of time to avoid the collapse of the public healthcare system.

The team suggested that the Government should study phasing out the old residential care homes for the elderly. (File photo/Photo by Ouyang Dehao)

It refers to the uneven quality of nursing homes and the elimination of old-style homes

The article pointed out that the current level of residential care homes for the elderly in Hong Kong is uneven, with a crowded general environment, poor ventilation and insufficient anti-epidemic facilities, which is not conducive to infection control. The article suggests that the Government may study phasing out the old residential care homes for the elderly, re-establish the hardware standards, and study the construction of large-scale one-stop elderly care homes with on-site medical staff and medical facilities, among which there should be sufficient personal space, such as only single or double rooms, sufficient fresh air supply and independent ventilation systems.

During the epidemic period, many members of the public went to the vaccination centres for injections. (File photo/Photo by Kong Fanxu)

"Peacetime is like wartime, wartime is like peacetime"

The article also mentions that before the fifth wave, misinformation about vaccines was widely circulated, and the information was confusing and misleading, which caused the public to generally distrust the government in the matter of vaccination, and the explanations often could not catch up with the rumors, which deterred the elderly, chronically ill patients and their family members from getting vaccinated in time, resulting in a large number of elderly and weak people dying of the epidemic.

The team hopes that Hong Kong can adopt the attitude of "peacetime as wartime, wartime as peacetime", and build up sufficient anti-epidemic resilience in terms of software, hardware and even mentality, so that even if the pandemic returns, the ultimate goal is to operate as usual until medicines and vaccines are available, without the need for long-term shutdowns of work and schools, sea, land and air transportation and shipping as usual, and people's daily lives as usual.

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