Two medical specialists are recommending that the Hong Kong government adopt a curfew and perhaps even a lockdown as the city faces growing pressure to contain a worsening third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Whistleblower Movement led by Miles Guo has been suspecting since January that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might use the virus as an excuse for a city-wide curfew or lockdown to end the pro-democracy movement. Instead of using tanks to crush the activists like what was done in 1989, the CCP is using both the virus and national security law to completely take over the former British colony.
Yuen Kwok-yung, a leading microbiologist in Hong Kong, said the authority should consider imposing a citywide curfew or a lockdown to prevent people from leaving their homes if the number of confirmed cases continues to rise in the next seven to 14 days.
In an interview with a local radio program, Yuen cautioned the public to put on their masks and not to relax before a vaccine is available.
David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory-medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a different radio interview that lockdown measures might be necessary if current measures fail to improve the situation. Public hospitals in Hong Kong would be overwhelmed within a week if nearly 100 cases were added daily and if most have an unknown origin, he said. Seventy-three new infections were recorded on Monday.
The SAR government announced on Sunday that a series of social distancing measures will be extended until July 28, including mandatory mask-wearing in all indoor public areas and a ban on dining at restaurants from 6 pm to 5 am.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s Communicable Disease Branch, on Monday said that in the 16 days from July 5 through Monday, 560 local infections were recorded, with about a third of the infections unlinked to confirmed cases or existing outbreaks, signaling that hidden chains of transmission are widespread. The city’s tally of confirmed cases reached 1,958, including 12 related deaths.
f the situation continues to deteriorate, the government may need to tighten measures to maintain social distancing and identify asymptomatic patients, Chuang said.
Meanwhile, the city’s Education Bureau announced on Monday that classes in all Hong Kong schools, including international schools and kindergartens, will not start before Aug 17 because of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic situation in the special administrative region. Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said the government noticed that some schools had planned to start earlier than that.
Yeung said special arrangements will likely be necessary for cross-boundary students of secondary 4 to 6 students once the schools reopen, but are not likely to be made for Secondary 3 or junior classes at the beginning of the new school year.
Lai Tsz-man, principal of Hing Tak School in Tuen Mun, said the school will fully cooperate with the policies, while ensuring students acquire skills and knowledge without going to the school.
He also said that once the epidemic stabilizes, the school will deliver some make-up lessons for these cross-boundary students, hoping that will help them catch up on their studies.
Eric Chung Pui-yeung, a secondary-5 cross-boundary student, said he is worried that the delay will affect his learning progress as he will have only six months to prepare for his college entrance examination if the new school year starts in September. What’s more, the commencement date for the new school year may be further delayed, he said.
Although the school provided online courses during the pandemic, Chung said he preferred to attend class in person for more effective learning.
Hong Kong sets daily record in virus cases
Hong Kong reported its all-time daily high of 108 coronavirus cases on Sunday, as the government further toughened social distancing rules including reintroducing work-from-home arrangements for civil servants.
The city’s infection tally has been pushed to 1,885, with 12 related fatalities.
Hong Kong Community Anti-Coronavirus Link, a civil alliance, called on the government to arrange mass virus tests for residents and resort to the central government’s assistance in testing when necessary.
The latest infections, recorded from 4 pm Saturday to midnight, included a record-high of 83 locally transmitted cases, 48 of which were of unknown origin, said Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre of Health Protection.
Chuang said there were more than 60 additional confirmed and preliminary cases discovered on Sunday and that were not included in the most recent daily count.
The city has confirmed 627 COVID-19 infections since July 5 when the worsening third wave of local outbreak was first detected, with 494 local cases related to various clusters in multiple districts, including at restaurants, schools, hospitals and elderly care homes. The source of about half the local cases could not be traced.
Chuang said many recent patients were found to have attended different social gatherings, which added to the difficulties identifying the source of infections. She conceded that the city was currently unable to test every resident for the virus, and she urged residents to stay at home and avoid social activities in the following weeks.
The latest figures came shortly after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that civil servants will resume working from home starting Monday and the government will provide only emergency and essential services.
Meanwhile, mask-wearing will be mandatory in all indoor public venues. Previously only passengers on public transportation were required to do so. The ban on the operation of bars and 12 other types of leisure venues will be extended to July 28, and dine-in service at restaurants from 6 pm to 5 am will not be available before July 28.
Lam said if the outbreak continues to escalate, the government will likely impose more restrictions on social life, including barring residents from leaving their homes, as many other places have done.
She added that the government is converting Lei Yue Mun Holiday Village and AsiaWorld-Expo to accommodate coronavirus patients with mild symptoms. Another 2,000 quarantine units will be built near Hong Kong Disneyland for similar purposes.