Hong Kong authorities should not fixate on “zero Covid” and should instead focus on boosting vaccinations, a top microbiologist and government advisor has said.

“Solely focusing on zero Covid is useless,” Yuen Kwok-yung said, adding that Hong Kong has paid a great price for achieving zero cases, such as not allowing certain premises to operate, and the policy was difficult to sustain.

Yuen Kwok-yung speaks on TVB
Yuen Kwok-yung speaks on TVB on January 23. Photo: TVB screenshot.

He said zero Covid should be considered a means to “buy time” for citizens to receive jabs but not as a way to end for anti-epidemic measures. He urged the government to introduce “vaccine bubbles” as early as possible and make the policy more stringent.

According to the microbiologist, even if new variants of the virus emerge in the future, the chances of developing severe symptoms would be reduced and the pressure on public health services would be alleviated if everyone was vaccinated.

Yuen also said universal testing was not a sustainable way to tackle the pandemic.

Covid-19 face mask children
Photo: GovHK.

As the “coronavirus will be with us forever,” he said the only way forward was for all people to either be vaccinated or to have recovered from infection, to force genetic changes to the virus and reduce its harmfulness, so it would only lead to light symptoms, like the common cold.

‘Dynamic zero Covid’

After more than 100 preliminary positive cases were detected in the Kwai Chung Estate cluster on Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters that the government had adopted a “dynamic zero Covid” policy, adding “we know there is no way to guarantee zero cases.”

Dozens of Yat Kwai House residents were seen lining up at testing stations in a basketball court.
Dozens of Yat Kwai House residents were seen lining up at testing stations in a basketball court. Photo: Telegram.

Lam said she hoped everyone would understand and not ask “who is to be beheaded” or “who is responsible” should undesirable outcomes occur.

“Over the past two years, you can see that nowhere in the world can guarantee [zero Covid]… Our country may be doing the best globally, but sometimes there is no way,” she added, citing reports from mainland China that people had been infected with Covid-19 after handling imported frozen food and packages.

But the city’s leader said she believes that “if everyone has faith, acts in concert with the government, and joins forces together, we have the capability of controlling the spread of Omicron in Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong recorded 140 new cases on Sunday, the highest in 18 months. Among them, 125 – including four with no known transmission links – were local infections. In all, Hong Kong has reported 13,286 infections and 213 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic just over two years ago.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.