Further lockdowns 'unlikely to drive cases down' - RTHK
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Further lockdowns 'unlikely to drive cases down'

2021-01-25 HKT 09:30
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  • Government workers in protective gear walk through the locked down streets of Jordan. Photo: Reuters
    Government workers in protective gear walk through the locked down streets of Jordan. Photo: Reuters
An epidemiologist has cast doubt on the effectiveness of further lockdowns in Hong Kong, after just 13 people out of more than 7,000 tested in the Jordan area at the weekend tested positive.

Speaking on Monday, Benjamin Cowling of the University of Hong Kong's school of public health, said the low number of cases was unlikely to do much to bring the virus under control.

However Cowling, who is also co-director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control at HKU, told RTHK's Mike Weeks that vaccination could bring hope of a return to relative normality as soon as September.

He said the 13 cases in Jordan were "a minority of all the cases that have been observed" and transmission continued in other parts of the SAR.

"I'm not sure that locking down other small parts of the city would make a lot of difference in getting on top of the case numbers right now," he said.

"We've seen this sort of approach being used very successfully in mainland China but it's used in a quite different way, where they'll lock down and test everybody probably two times, not just once, with the aim of getting infections to zero very, very quickly. That's not what's been done in Hong Kong."

Cowling said the mainland had better logistics and support for people under lockdown, and noted that Hong Kong had not mentioned compensation for people and businesses affected.

He said there was "a lot of fatigue" after a year of control measures, while the economic effects of social distancing were also showing. He said this pointed to more difficulties in the next few months before vaccination could take effect.

"I really hope that by September it will be possible at least for the government to say if we can get 70 percent plus vaccine coverage, we're going to open up the airport, stop the quarantine for travellers and aim to get back to normal as soon as possible, schools are going back to normal, and maybe just have a few social distancing measures in the back pocket in case case numbers flare up from time to time."

Officials hope to begin vaccination next month after the Lunar New Year Holiday. A vaccine from BioNTech, supplied by Fosun Pharma, had been approved for use, but government advisers are seeking more information on a jab from Sinovac.

Cowling said that if reports that the Sinovac vaccine was only 50 percent effective proved accurate it wouldn't help in providing herd immunity.
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Last updated: 2021-01-25 HKT 18:39