Press Releases in Hong Kong

HK respiratory disease expert: Stay home, as much as possible

A customer (left) buys takeaway food from a restaurant in Hong Kong on January 5, 2022. (Peter PARKS / AFP)

HONG KONG – People in Hong Kong should stay home as much as possible for the next two weeks as the sparks of potential Omicron outbreaks have sprung up in multiple places in the community and threatened to spread like a wildfire, said respiratory disease expert Leung Chi-chiu in radio show Friday morning.

The former chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases said the government should take the lead to allow non-essential workers to work from home, while schools should also be suspended.

“One to two weeks of suspension is better than long-term closure,” he said.

Respiratory disease expert Leung Chi-chiu expressed worries over the difficulty to trace close contacts to the Omicron clusters detected so far, calling for multi-layer contact tracing and lock down part of the community

Leung said the sense of crisis is not sufficient among the public, despite the stringent measures such as banning dine-in services in restaurants after 6 pm.

ALSO READ: HK cordoned off 5 buildings to stave off potential outbreak

“The virus does not go out only after 6 pm. Wearing a mask does not reduce the infection risks to zero,” he said.

Leung expressed worries over the difficulty to trace close contacts to the Omicron clusters detected so far, calling for multi-layer contact tracing and lock down part of the community.

The next-generation transmission of Omicron could happen within one day. If the transmission chains are not broken via the traditional contact tracing method in two weeks, they would become so widespread that “nothing could be done”, he warned.

The challenge of tracing

In a press conference on Thursday, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection's Communicable Disease Branch, said the authorities are still tracing 10 patrons of Six Garden Restaurant in Tin Hau, where a surveyor who lived in Tuen Mun got infected. The 62-year-old had breakfast in the restaurant at around the same time as an infected woman, who is the mother of an Omicron-infected Cathay Pacific flight attendant.

ALSO READ: Home affairs chief in quarantine after banquet, CE 'disappointed'

There were a total of 20 patrons in the restaurant between 8-10 am on Dec 31. Only 10 have been found. Some of the patrons failing to show up for compulsory testing had used Octopus cards for payment. But they cannot be traced as the cards were not personalized ones. Some did not answer phone calls from the health authorities, she explained.  

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, a non-official member of the Executive Council and vice-chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, said that it is time to implement real-name registration for the LeaveHomeSafe contact tracing app.

Without the real-name registration, “there is nothing you can do if a person ignores a compulsory testing alert issued by the LeaveHomeSafe app. This is a loophole,” he said.

“Which is more important, the privacy or the life? We as a society can’t be endangered because of a few people’s worries in this aspect,” he said.