Enough of the confusing remarks about the wearing of face masks

February 20, 2020 17:28
Despite the current shortage, wearing masks is crucial in preventing our citizens from getting infected by the novel coronavirus. Photo: Reuters

Face masks are in extremely short supply these days, and even if you have the money to buy them, they are difficult to obtain.

However, we feel compelled to stress that despite the shortage, wearing masks is crucial in preventing our citizens from getting infected by the novel coronavirus.

As such, our government officials and certain medical figures shouldn’t be spreading wrong information about the efficacy of wearing face masks that could mislead the public.

Earlier on, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said during a press conference that according to the guidelines laid down by the World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy person who hasn’t shown any symptoms doesn’t need to wear surgical masks.

Then, the Secretary for Labor and Welfare Law Chi-kwong wrote on his official blog last week that he had not gone to crowded places over the past 22 days since the Lunar New Year, and that he had been driving to the government headquarters by himself and had not taken public transport.

Law said he had not used a single face mask as he was indirectly saving masks for those in need.

Their rhetoric was echoed by Dr. Seto Wing-hong, honorary clinical professor at the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, who told a recent press conference that a healthy individual doesn’t have to put on masks.

Yet Seto’s remarks were immediately refuted by a number of local healthcare organizations such as the Hong Kong Urological Association, the Hong Kong Society for Infectious Diseases, and the Hong Kong Public Doctors' Association.

These organizations unanimously urged our citizens, whether they have shown respiratory infection symptoms or not, to wear masks at all times.

Even Dr. Ho Pak-leung, clinical associate professor at the Department of Microbiology of the HKU medical school, said he was very disappointed with the confusing remarks about the wearing of face masks.

Ho said Covid-19 infections in our city would definitely have exceeded the current number of confirmed cases if our citizens hadn’t been wearing masks whenever they went outdoors over the past several weeks.

The ongoing disaster aboard the cruise liner Diamond Princess attests to how highly contagious the coronavirus can be.

Can the people of Hong Kong really feel comfortable about not wearing masks given all the news footage they have been seeing on television?

What our government should do is to make every effort to acquire surgical masks against all odds, rather than attempting to curb public demand by urging healthy people not to wear masks.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 19

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal