HK faces critical period in coronavirus fight

January 30, 2020 12:04
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said people should stay at home as much as possible as there is currently an insufficient supply of face masks in the city. Photo: RTHK

The next two weeks will be crucial for Hong Kong to determine whether the measures the government has put in place are effective in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus from the mainland, said Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Considering that the government only started implementing border controls from Thursday, and hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers have already been returning from the mainland, it may take some time to determine the results of the government measures, Yuen told a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Experts have noted that the next 14 days are critical in determining whether the viral infection from the mainland will spread in Hong Kong because that is the incubation for the novel coronavirus called 2019-nCoV, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) under the Department of Health, the number of confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV infection in Hong Kong has risen to 10 as of Wednesday.

Yuen said that since some people who were infected have not shown any symptoms yet, it would not surprise him if another 10 cases are to be reported in the coming days.

Acknowledging that there is a serious shortage of face masks in the territory, Yuen advised people to stay home as much as possible and wear face masks if they have to go out in the streets, adding that ensuring hand hygiene is also very important.

Some frontline healthcare workers have asked for shortened work hours in isolation wards and a washout period. Asked about this, Yuen said such arrangements are always negotiable based on the actual situation and manpower.

Dr. Raymond Lai Wai-man, chief infection control officer of the Hospital Authority (HA), told media that he is totally respectful of healthcare workers' dedication and moving them to general out-patient clinics after they finish work in isolation wards should be considered.

He said, however, that hospital clusters may have different policies on the matter.

Lai also revealed that the HA has ordered 8,000 rapid testing reagents for each public hospital to start doing tests by themselves from Saturday and there will tens of thousands such reagents supplied to them in the coming days.

During the news conference, Yuen and Lai also demonstrated how to correctly wear a face mask.

Lai reminded the public to replace face masks that have been worn for a long period of time or have been stained.

The nose must be covered when wearing a face mask and both hands must be cleaned before replacing it, Yuen said.

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