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Sunday, Aug 14, 2022

'Nothing wrong' with Covid policy debates

People discussing the effectiveness of Hong Kong's Covid policies do not violate the national security law, the government says.
But it stressed "dynamic zero infection" - which means the city is expected to see cases but authorities would move quickly to cut transmission chains - is the most effective way to deal with the pandemic.

The government issued a statement yesterday in response to media inquiries after pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu on Saturday said health experts who suggested Hong Kong adopt the "living with Covid" strategy should be viewed as violating the national security law.

"Making general remarks and discussions are not illegal" and the government "continues its aim to achieve dynamic zero infection to ensure the effective operation of the public health system, which is the most essential and effective way to safeguard citizens' lives," a government spokesman said.

The government has enhanced a series of measures to prevent the importation of cases and the spread of the virus in the community, the spokesman added.

He urged the public to get inoculated as the current overall vaccination rate "is not high."

He added: "More than a million people have yet to be vaccinated. They may be exposed to a high chance of infection or even the risk of death," the spokesman said.

As of Saturday, the rate of those jabbed once was less than 80 percent. Some 500,000 people aged 70 or above still have not yet received their first dose.

"Vaccination is highly effective in preventing severe cases or death from Covid and Hong Kong is in a race against time in combating the highly transmissible mutant variants," he said.

On Saturday, Ho claimed that guarding against the importation of cases and the resurgence of domestic infections is a national-level strategy and anti-epidemic measures are under the areas of defense and diplomacy.

The strategy of "living with Covid" may "breach national defense and disrupt the order of the society," he said.

Election Committee sector lawmaker Maggie Chan Man-ki yesterday said Hong Kong should never deviate from the central government's zero-Covid policy.

She said "living with the virus" would only hinder the reopening of the borders with the mainland. It would also bring "irreversible negative impact" to the SAR as it tries to integrate into the country's development.

Chan said living with the virus would affect women, children and elderly who have weaker resilience to the pandemic.

Hong Kong, as part of the country, has the responsibility to follow the nation's anti-pandemic policy, she said.

She said living with the virus - as practiced in Western countries - is not suitable for densely populated Hong Kong.

It would only let the virus spread uncontrollably, which would overburden the city's medical system and quarantine facilities, she added.

Meanwhile, a survey by Bauhinia International Research Institute of Politics and Economics of 1,063 Hongkongers from last Monday to Friday found that 68 percent support the dynamic zero infection strategy because it complies with the city's overall interest.

However, around 60 percent found the current anti-pandemic measures as insufficient in combating the fifth wave.
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