Several medical experts in Hong Kong said it would be too early to cancel the city’s anti-epidemic measures in the short term as asymptomatic patients remained a major threat to the community.
On Friday, four more cases of Covid-19 infection were recorded in Hong Kong, bringing the total to 1,022, according to the Center for Health Protection.
Hong Kong has recorded single-digit numbers of infections for six consecutive days. Over the past six days, a total of 20 Covid-19 patients were identified with most having a travel history.
As some European countries recently announced an end to some of their anti-epidemic measures and allowed some shops and restaurants to resume operations, the United States also said it would gradually accelerate its economic growth.
Similar calls have been raised by the business community and self-employed people in Hong Kong. In fact, a lot of consumers have already returned to the streets and shopping malls in recent weeks, although most tended to take away their food from restaurants. Local medical experts warned that the number of infections could rebound if the city loosens its quarantine measures now.
Hong Kong could loosen its anti-epidemic measures only after no cases have been recorded for 28 consecutive days, Ho Pak-leung, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, said in a radio program on Friday.
Ho said it was very dangerous to loosen the measures now as the epidemic situation in Hong Kong is not under control.
About a quarter to a third of identified patients in the city are asymptomatic, and many of them are under 30, Ho said. The Hong Kong government should send a public message that asymptomatic patients could spread the virus and that people who thought they were having allergic rhinitis and bronchitis could have been affected, he added.
Since last month, the Hong Kong government has shut down some premises including bars, fitness centers, karaoke, mahjong parlors and party rooms and halved the number of tables in restaurants. It has also banned gatherings with more than four people and required incoming travelers to be home quarantined for 14 days. Schools have been closed since late January.
Leung Chi-chiu, chairman of the advisory committee on communicable diseases at the Hong Kong Medical Association, said there was the chance of another community outbreak with asymptomatic carriers.
Leung suggested all arrivals into Hong Kong should be quarantined immediately at either a quarantine center and hotel and tested at the end of the 14-day incubation period.
He told RTHK that this solution could work given that the number of people returning to Hong Kong has dropped and there were now more spaces at the city’s quarantine centers.
Chui Tak-yi, the Undersecretary for Food and Health, said there had been a declining trend in the number of infections in Hong Kong, but that was not enough reason to loosen social distancing measures for the moment. Chun said the number could rebound as the last patient of an infected group could be identified two weeks after the first one.
Chui said the government would expand its virus tests to cover more people. He added that it would closely monitor the city’s epidemic situation and fine tune its measures if necessary.