The city must chart its own path in battling the city’s fifth wave of Covid-19, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung has said.

Yuen Kwok-yung.
Yuen Kwok-yung. Photo: RTHK screenshot via Facebook.

Addressing reporters after inspecting an elderly home as the coronavirus spreads through 710 of the city’s 1,041 care facilities, the microbiologist said conducting citywide testing has been proven to be very effective in mainland China.

However, mainland authorities have far more surveillance and monitoring technologies at their disposal than in Hong Kong, he said. The issue may undermine Hong Kong’s ability to follow a mainland-style universal testing with a city in full lockdown.

More gathering restrictions needed

“The mainland has a lot of facial recognition, a lot of CCTV monitor[ing]. They have a lot of organisations in each housing estate and in each street. They have a very strong ability to contact trace and the health code, but Hong Kong has none of these,” Yuen said. “So Hong Kong needs to chart its own path and decide when it’s best to do what we decided to do.”

The city may require all its residents to be tested for Covid-19, but it needs sufficient isolation facilities to place those who test positive, along with their close contacts.

The effect of universal testing “will be very low” if cases remain as high as 50,000 a day, Yuen said. It would be better to do so after increasing measures to restrict social distancing and if transmissions slowed to several hundred a day, he said.

“The question is not when the peak is reached, but whether it will come back down,” he added.

Hong Kong recorded 56,827 cases on Thursday and 1,358 deaths at hospitals. The number of new infections has increased by 74 per cent in three days.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.