- Hong Kong has reported the first cases of the Wuhan coronavirus infection, but the initial lack of a health declaration protocol at train stations has hampered contact tracing. The government must do better to show it has learned from Sars
A contagious new coronavirus " a Sars-like virus " is spreading in mainland China. On Wednesday, Hong Kong, which is one river away from the mainland, reported its first two cases.
One of them is a 39-year-old mainland passenger who arrived in Hong Kong's West Kowloon station on Tuesday aboard the G5607 high-speed train from Shenzhen. He displayed signs of a fever at the port of entry and was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for further examination.
In the second case, a 56-year-old local man who fell ill after returning from a visit to Wuhan sought help at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Preliminary tests came back positive for the virus in both cases. More tests are pending.
Meanwhile, the two men have been transferred to the Hospital Authority's infectious diseases centre at Princess Margaret Hospital, and the authorities have urged passengers who sat near the 39-year-old man on the train to get in touch so they could be checked and potentially quarantined.
However, as the authorities did not require incoming passengers at train stations to fill in a health declaration form with their contact details, they have been unable to track down those who were in close contact with the infected passenger. This was obviously a major oversight by the Hong Kong government, which should have taken more active precautions against the deadly virus.
As of writing, there had been 571 confirmed cases and 17 deaths in Wuhan.
Dr Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert at the National Health Commission who was instrumental in containing the Sars outbreak in 2003, confirmed on Monday night that the virus was spreading through human-to-human transmission. Two Hong Kong experts " University of Hong Kong professor Yuen Kwok-yung and Dr Ho Pak-leung, director of HKU's Carol Yu Centre for Infection " had also warned of the same.
And, yet, the administration led by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has failed to respond promptly and efficiently.
Notwithstanding the government's passive approach, it's good that the Chinese government imposed a lockdown on Wuhan from 10am on Thursday, temporarily stopping all flights and passenger train services out of the city and suspending subway and ferry services. Hopefully, this can help to contain the spread of the virus.
As everyone knows, this is not the first time Hong Kong has battled a contagious deadly virus. The outbreak in 2003 of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) coronavirus, which claimed 299 lives in Hong Kong, has left a permanent scar in the hearts of many people.
No one will ever forget those horrifying times, when people lived in fear and the economy came to a standstill. Judging from the government's performance so far, if there is another serious coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong could again suffer badly.
The current government lacks experienced talent. During the Sars outbreak, then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa had a much stronger team. Yeoh Eng-kiong, then the health secretary and seen by some to be one of the special administrative region's most capable secretaries, led his brilliant team to the battle.
Outside the government, many stood at the front lines battling the virus, including Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu and his team at the Prince of Wales Hospital. Then there was Professor Yuen, a renowned microbiologist who led his team in the discovery of the Sars coronavirus. These people are all heroes.
Beyond the coronavirus: the deadly diseases Asia has beaten before
The government team now led by Secretary of Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee, who comes from a nursing background, pales in comparison.
After seven months of social unrest triggered by protests against a government proposal to amend the extradition law, Hong Kong is today split into different camps. It would be difficult for people to unite to fight the new coronavirus, as they did during the Sars outbreak. Hong Kong is in no condition to fight another battle.
Carrie Lam should take this chance to defuse some of the anger, and narrow divisions by correcting her mistakes. She should respond to the popular demand for an independent inquiry into the policing of the protests and, at the very least, the administration should drop its appeal against a court ruling that overturned the government's anti-mask law.
Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator
Sign up now for our 50% early bird offer from SCMP Research: China AI Report. The all new SCMP China AI Report gives you exclusive first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments, and actionable and objective intelligence about China AI that you should be equipped with.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.查看原始文章