Even though Hong Kong’s Covid wave may have peaked, better coordination and mutual support is a must for a successful response, says Henry Ho
MORE THAN A MONTH into the fight against the fifth wave of the epidemic in Hong Kong, with the strong support of the central government of China, daily confirmed cases and expert analyses indicate that Hong Kong’s fifth Covid-19 wave has very likely peaked. This is indeed a piece of good news to this highly tense city.
In an interview with Xinhua News Agency on March 9, Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam admitted that the government has not done enough in releasing information in a timely and consistent manner. With strong support from the central government and advice from mainland experts, Hong Kong has clarified its strategy focused on minimizing infections, severe cases, and deaths as the primary goals.
While the Central Government has provided tremendous and unprecedented support to Hong Kong in the last three weeks, including the deployment of high-level anti-epidemic experts, building makeshift hospitals, provision of huge number of rapid testing kits, PCR test capacities and staff, as well as transport of food and daily necessities, and so on, Hong Kong should now shoulder our responsibilities and swiftly and wisely fight against the epidemic.
STRENGTHEN INTERNAL COORDINATION
Fighting the epidemic is the top priority and overriding tasks for Hong Kong, in particular for all civil servants. All the HKSAR government’s over 60 departments and 180,000 civil servants should be mobilized to fight COVID-19.
Yet, the past few weeks have seen insufficient coordination between government departments regarding different aspects of anti-pandemic efforts, from hotline inquiries, supply of food and necessities for temporary locked-down buildings, as well as daily operations of isolation facilities. Fortunately situations get improved with the introduction of more and more disciplined forces to manage various facilities.
In addition to the Police Force which has tirelessly contributed to the city-wide fight in the past two years, other forces such as Fire Services Department and Independent Corruption Against Corruption (ICAC) have participated in hotline inquiries and operations of isolation facilities.
Hong Kong’s medical system has always been top-notch, but the recent COVID-19 outbreak has put a strain on the city’s health system, with public hospitals now understaffed and without enough isolation beds to accommodate the growing number of patients. Public health is about the well-being of the whole population, and winning the COVID-19 battle is crucial to revive the prosperity of Hong Kong.
At this time, besides the medical staff of public hospitals fighting at the front line, private hospitals should also make concerted efforts to improve the epidemic situation in Hong Kong. Vice-Premier Han Zheng has already sent strong messages to Hong Kong including local private hospitals. Refusal to admit any Covid patients by private hospitals may not be accurate, but the demands to accommodate a lot more COVID patients are loud and clear.
Hong Kong’s private medical sector has been reaping huge profits in the past and during this crisis period the public would expect it to take more social responsibilities in reducing severe and death cases.
At this critical moment, in addition to better coordination within the government, strengthening collaboration with the business sector, non-governmental sector and professional institutions are also key to winning this battle. Support to home-quarantined families in terms of food, testing kits and medical supplies should be the key priority at the community level.
Neighbourhood support has been very weak in recent years in Hong Kong but we should realise that this support is vital to every household and its members. Giving care and support to our infected families next door are also helping each of our family members. Let’s hope that the epidemic could be controlled in the next two months and a stronger and more united Hong Kong would emerge to celebrate the jubilee of reunification in July.
Henry Ho is Founder and Chairman, One Country Two Systems Youth Forum