Full lockdown not needed in Hong Kong: HKU professor - RTHK
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Full lockdown not needed in Hong Kong: HKU professor

2020-03-27 HKT 10:58
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  • Professor Benjamin Cowling says there's no need for a lockdown of Hong Kong despite an increase in the number of local Covid-19 infections. File photo: RTHK.
    Professor Benjamin Cowling says there's no need for a lockdown of Hong Kong despite an increase in the number of local Covid-19 infections. File photo: RTHK.
A University of Hong Kong epidemiologist says there's no need for a lockdown of the city despite an increase in the number of local Covid-19 outbreaks.

Recent clusters of cases have been linked to the entertainment district of Lan Kwai Fong, and a wedding in Discovery Bay.

But Professor Benjamin Cowling, head of the university's epidemiology and biostatistics division, said most of the territory's coronavirus cases have been imported and there is not a lot of local transmission.

Taking part in RTHK's Backchat programme, Cowling said that the measures taken so far by the government have been balanced.

"If we’re in a desperate situation like maybe northern Italy was, then you go to a lockdown because you want to really stop transmission at all costs," he said.

"But in Hong Kong, we’re not in that position. We could do a lockdown and stop all transmission, but actually there’s not that much transmission to stop," the expert said.

Cowling said the health authorities would be able to keep on top of the clusters of cases at the moment with extensive contact tracing and testing.

But he warned that they could be overwhelmed if there is a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 patients.

"If we had instead of one or two clusters at the moment, 10 or 20, suddenly it’s much more difficult to get on top of, to track all those people down and to keep a close eye on," he said.

"That’s what we’re really worried about, that we’ll be overwhelmed by outbreaks, and then it’s difficult to pull back at that point."

Meanwhile, Leung Chi-chiu the chairman Hong Kong Medical Association’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, suggested that entertainment venues such as bars should be shut for 14 days.

Speaking on RTHK's Millennium programme, he also said that restaurants should limit the number of people they seat inside.

He said given that a large number of people are linked to the Lan Kwai Fong cluster, it is not enough to isolate just bar employees as those people have been in contact with customers, and possibly spread the virus elsewhere.

He went on to warn that unless decisive action is taken, then the chain of transmission won’t be cut off, and the virus will spread even further.

Hong Kong has so far recorded 453 confirmed Covid-19 infections, with four fatalities.