Editorial:COVID-19 mutant augurs badly - 20210421 - 英文 - 每日明報 - 明報新聞網

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Editorial:COVID-19 mutant augurs badly

【明報專訊】In view of the emergence of a case of community infection involving a COVID-19 variant, the government has ordered restriction-testing in buildings, banning passenger flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines to Hong Kong for 14 days at the same time. Because it is not yet clear how the patient concerned got infected, no one can know whether the mutant has already spread in the community and whether the measures of restriction-testing and flight bans can stop the spread of the variant in time. The sudden emergence of the variant augurs badly. Both the government and the public must heighten vigilance, make the best preparations and be prepared for the worst. The current variant case shows that there is still room for improvement in guarding against the import of cases. Still, the virus is all-pervasive, and there are always chances of slips however tight the gatekeeping is. Hong Kong is now trying to return to normality against the backdrop of pandemic storms outside the city. Although vaccines for the coronavirus are not a panacea, they are still the most hopeful way out. Citizens should not hesitate about receiving vaccination anymore.

The COVID-19 variants raging around the world have become the greatest uncertainty concerning the global pandemic. Research shows that some of the high-risk variants are 60% to 70% higher in transmissibility. In order to stop these variants, the Hong Kong government had already listed Brazil, South Africa, Britain and Ireland as ''extremely high-risk places''. Inbound travellers from these places must undergo compulsory quarantine in a designated quarantine hotel for 21 days. Still, the pandemic has continued to rage outside Hong Kong and the high-risk variants have spread all over the world. Over the past month or so, although local infections in Hong Kong have significantly eased off, many imported cases have been identified via quarantine, and there have been no shortage of variant cases. The danger is that Hong Kong could lose the battle having been on the defensive for so long.

The first confirmed case of the N501Y mutant strain that surfaced lately in Hong Kong's community involved a local Indian. Testing shows that he carried an extremely high viral load in his body. So far it is known that his girlfriend in Hong Kong has also been infected with the variant. As the infected man has visited Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui and dined at a restaurant in Cheung Chau, the authorities have immediately demanded people who have been to those places concerned on specific dates undergo mandatory testing. Furthermore, the Hong Kong government said that, as confirmed by arrival tests in Hong Kong, five or more passengers carrying the N501Y mutant had arrived from each of these countries over 7 days: India, Pakistan and the Philippines. That means the trigger point for invoking the ''place-specific flight suspension mechanism'' has been reached. Thus, the authorities have temporarily suspended flights from those places to Hong Kong and put these three countries onto the list of ''extremely high-risk places''. These measures will be preliminarily effective for 14 days. At the same time, the government has also announced tighter compulsory testing requirements for inbound travellers. Those who are from ''extremely high-risk places'' must conduct self-monitoring for seven more days even after completing 21 days of mandatory quarantine. They must also take a nucleic acid test again on the 26th day after arrival in Hong Kong.

The two patients whose infection with the variant is understood to have been confirmed have visited many places that are crowded with people. The coming two to three weeks will be crucial as to whether the mutant has spread in the community or not. During this period, all parties must heighten vigilance and take adequate precautions against the pandemic.

The race between virus mutation and vaccine modification is a marathon. We cannot wait til the invention of a ''panacea vaccine'' before deciding to have a jab. Hong Kong is lucky to have both the BioNTech and the Sinovac vaccines at hand now. Citizens should receive vaccination more swiftly.

明報社評 2021.04.20:變種病毒惡兆乍現 提高戒備嚴陣以待

香港社區出現變種病毒個案,政府一邊頒布強制檢測令,一邊禁止印度、巴基斯坦及菲律賓民航客機來港,為期14天。鑑於現時並不清楚當事人如何感染,變種病毒有否在社區擴散、強檢停飛措施能否及時堵截,仍是未知之數,疫情惡兆乍現,官民必須提高戒備,做最好準備、作最壞打算。今次變種病毒個案出現,反映外防輸入仍有可加強、改善之處,惟病毒無孔不入,縱使把關再嚴,始終有漏網可能,外圍疫情風高浪急,本港要在這樣的大環境下「復常」,新冠疫苗雖非萬靈丹,但仍是眼前最有希望成功的出路,市民打針不應再猶豫。

變種病毒肆虐,成為全球疫情發展最大變數,研究顯示部分高危變種病毒的傳播能力,較之前高出了六七成。港府為了堵截變種病毒,之前已將巴西、南非、英國及愛爾蘭列為「極高風險地區」,由這些地方抵港的人,必須在指定酒店強制檢疫21天,然而外圍疫情持續嚴重,高危變種病毒在全球各地擴散,過去一個多月,香港本地感染雖見顯著放緩,可是經由檢疫發現的輸入病例卻甚多,當中不乏變種病毒個案,久守必失正是現時本港面臨的危機。

本港近日首度在社區發現N501Y變種病毒株,確診者是一名印度裔港人,檢測顯示他體內的病毒量甚高,暫時已知他在香港的一名女友人,亦感染變種病毒。由於確診者曾到過尖沙嘴海港城,又光顧過長洲的食肆,當局已即時要求於指定日子到過相關地點的市民,接受強制檢測。另外,港府表示,印度、巴基斯坦和菲律賓累計7天各有5名或以上抵港乘客,帶有N501Y變種病毒株,觸及「熔斷機制」指標,當局暫時禁止有關地區的客機抵港,並將3國列入「極高風險地區」,措施初步為期14天。港府同時宣布更嚴格的入境強制檢測規定,從「極高風險地區」回港,即使完成21天強制檢疫,仍要進一步自我監察7天,包括在回港後第26天再做核酸檢測。

已知的兩名確診者到過很多人潮如鯽的地方。要確定變種病毒有否傳開,未來兩三周將是關鍵,各方這段時間必須高度戒備,做足防疫措施。

病毒變種與疫苗改良,是一場馬拉松競賽,無法等到「萬靈疫苗」面世才去打,本港難得有充足的復必泰及科興疫苗在手,市民應該加緊接種。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

mutant /ˈmjuːtənt/:an organism with qualities that are different from other types because of a change in its genes

augur /ˈɔːɡə(r)/ well/badly :to be a sign that sth will be successful or not successful in the future

emergence /ɪˈmɜːdʒəns/:the process of coming into existence

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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