A prominent infectious diseases expert on Sunday blasted the government’s refusal to bar all non-residents from entering Hong Kong as “stupid”, comparing the territory’s current coronavirus situation as akin to the early stages of massive outbreaks in Wuhan and Daegu in South Korea.
Hong Kong University microbiologist Ho Pak-leung warned that the number of Covid-19 cases in the city could “skyrocket” in the next week unless the government talks bold and decisive steps to halt the spread of the virus.
Thousands of people have been flooding back to Hong Kong from virus-hit countries overseas, driving the number of confirmed infections up to as many as 48 a day.
Ho warned that community outbreaks are already happening, and Hong Kong has reached a critical point in its fight against the pandemic.
He said bottlenecks in Hong Kong's epidemic response are already forming in the form of limited quarantine facilities, virus tests, hospital beds and equipment.
All responsible governments around the world have stopped allowing non-residents to enter, Ho noted, saying it was a “stupid decision” by the SAR government not to take the same step.
Ho urged the government to consider copying stronger steps adopted overseas, like banning people from going out for part of the evening, unless they have a genuine and urgent need to do so.
He also urged officials to find out how many local hotels are willing to house students returning to Hong Kong from abroad, so they can stay there for three days until they’re tested and monitored for any sign of illness.
Ho warned that people violate their home quarantines can easily lead to a chain of local infections, saying the irresponsible behavior of a few can destroy the entire anti-epidemic system.
But in a post on the government’s ‘Tamar Talk’ Facebook page, a spokesman said the number of non-residents entering the SAR has plummeted since mandatory 14-day quarantines were imposed on all overseas arrivals on March 19.
He said non-residents now account for less than a tenth of the overall number of visitors, dropping from an average of around 4,300 per day last month, to 620 over the past few days.
Last updated: 2020-03-22 HKT 20:45
Not barring non-residents a stupid decision: expert
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