Penny's Bay Omicron option 'may not be sustainable' - RTHK
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Penny's Bay Omicron option 'may not be sustainable'

2021-11-30 HKT 10:39
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  • Penny's Bay Omicron option 'may not be sustainable'
University of Hong Kong epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling has questioned whether it's sustainable to quarantine all incoming travellers from high-risk areas for seven days at the Penny's Bay Quarantine Centre.

He made the comment after Hong Kong tightened its anti-epidemic measures to ward off the spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain, that is linked to southern Africa.

"We know that a number of times in the past year, Covid has been able to spread in quarantine hotels. It's only a handful of occasions but it's still a risk and so putting people into Penny's Bay for the first seven days makes sense as a risk reduction measure but I'm not sure it's sustainable," Cowling said.

"I just imagine to myself, what if the head of HSBC comes back to Hong Kong and has to spend a week in Penny's Bay, before going to his hotel - Mandarin Oriental or wherever. It may not be ideal for Hong Kong to ask everybody to stay in Penny's Bay first."

Scientists have expressed concern about the Omicron variant due its mutations, which mean current vaccines may be less effective against it than other variants. On Sunday, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, said the variant was accounting for most new daily cases in Gauteng province, which includes the country's largest city Johannesburg. Cowling said Hong Kong now had to consider creating a new facility should the variant become mainstream.

"So most likely Omicron will start to be detected in other parts of the world. If it fizzles out, that's good news for us. But if it doesn't fizzle out and it does become the predominant strain of the virus circulating worldwide, that means we have to have a decision in Hong Kong about whether, in the future, most arrivals will start in Penny's Bay and then go to quarantine hotels. And, if that's the case, I think it would be much better to have a special facility constructed, rather than repurposing Penny's Bay for this."

On Monday, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung called on the government to put fully-vaccinated Hongkongers returning from eight African countries in quarantine camps for 21 days.