They defeat the virus (again and again)

Hong Kong — It was travelers and college students who first brought the coronavirus back to Hong Kong from Europe and the United States. Then sailors and bar patrons spread the infection.

The recent wave seems to have started a large cluster in a ballroom dance hall popular with older women, followed by other dance venues and banquet-style restaurants.

For most of the year, every time Hong Kong defeated the coronavirus surge, a few weeks later, new problems arose elsewhere and among other people.

A similar pattern applies to other parts of Asia where the daily battle continues to prevent the Covid-19 infection rate from running out of control. And the recent wave of infection is more difficult to track than the previous wave. Just as winter pushes more people indoors and increases the risk of infection.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Japan and South Korea have experienced the highest totals of the day, mainly driven by the diffusion clusters of the metropolitan areas of Tokyo and Seoul. Hong Kong is still below its peak this year, but is facing a surge comparable to the summer wave, largely driven by what experts call untraceable “silent” transmissions.

Kwok Kin-on, an epidemiologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said:

Compared to the United States and Europe, much of East Asia still relatively suppresses the virus. Hong Kong, with a population of about 7.5 million, has killed a total of 5,947 people and 108 people, the lowest rate of any city.

However, the recent setback highlights the challenges the world will continue to face until the existence of widely available vaccines. South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong needed to quickly readjust their strategies as the incident soared to alert levels in recent weeks.

The travel bubble announced at the big fanfare is currently pending. A few weeks after reopening, the school was closed again. Bars and restaurants close early or move to takeaway menus.

“Solidity is needed in this situation, but as we all know, it’s not easy,” said Dr. Kim Woo-ju, an infectious disease specialist at Korea University.

Complicating their efforts is the nature of the present outbreak. Transmission occurs not only in crowded places such as nightclubs, but also in environments such as homes and workplaces where governments have few options to control people’s behavior.

On Thursday, South Korea recorded more than 500 new cases for the first time in about eight months. Experts say there doesn’t seem to be a single major cluster, as it did when church and rebel protests caused previous outbreaks.

Pandemic fatigue did not help. Healthcare professionals are exhausted, young people are bored because they cannot travel, and business owners are frustrated by the need to scale down or close early.

Kim Il-sun, who runs a coffee shop in a residential area of ​​Seoul, said the business was shut down after the government banned living in the cafe this week. Takeout is still an option, but for many, chatting directly over a cup of tea is part of the attraction.

“I’ve been busy apologizing to customers for the last two days,” she said...

In Japan, authorities report about 2,000 infections daily. Cases are spreading rapidly in cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo, which reported a record high of 570 infections on Friday. Compared to the summer waves, which mainly affected young people, the current waves are hitting many people in their 40s and above.

Japan’s Imperial Household Agency said on Friday that it had decided to cancel Emperor Naruhito’s annual New Year’s event at the Imperial Palace for the first time since 1990, when the country was mourning his death, as a sign of national vigilance.

“Don’t underestimate the coronavirus,” Toshio Nakagawa, chairman of the Japan Medical Association, told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday. “Japan cannot be like America or Europe.”

It is hoped that the coronavirus vaccine will soon hand over to health authorities around the world new weapons to overcome the pandemic. However, they will not be widely available until spring at the earliest.

Until then, and as winter approaches and the number of incidents soars, many East Asian healthcare professionals are calling for caution and rethinking pandemic policies.

In spring and summer, the main focus was on fighting clusters at their source. For example, officials in Tokyo and Seoul responded by temporarily closing the venue to something that spread around nightclubs. Hong Kong imposed restrictions on seafarers after the cluster was tracked by cargo ships.

This time, authorities appear to be determined to take a more subtle approach, driven by concerns about the economic debris that the pandemic has already caused. However, doing so in the face of such harmful pathogens can open up new challenges.

Hong Kong is rolling out a new contact tracing app that allows people to voluntarily scan a QR code on their smartphone when they visit a place. This allows authorities to better address the emerging clusters. However, such apps have had limited success in South Korea, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Unless the government provides details on how to analyze personal information, it can be difficult to convince many to download the app. Data privacy issues are especially sensitive in Hong Kong as the Chinese government has increased control over its territory.

Leung Chi-chiu, a respiratory specialist at the Hong Kong Medical Association, said:

The recent wave of infection has also forced the government to delay tentative efforts to open it.

Even before the details were fully known, Hong Kongers rushed to buy a ticket to take advantage of the planned travel bubble with Singapore. Special flights would have allowed residents of both locations to evade 14 days of quarantine upon arrival.

The travel bubble was supposed to start this week. After that, the number of cases in Hong Kong surged, and authorities postponed the start to December 6.

In Japan, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has curtailed a $ 16 billion campaign aimed at encouraging domestic tourism during a pandemic. But he didn’t completely abandon it, saying it would help support the local economy.

For someone like Noriko Hashida, who sells cosmetics in Osaka, taking a vacation with eight of her colleagues last week was worth the risk of infection.

Mr. Hashida said the government’s tourism subsidy allowed spring to enter a luxury hotel that would normally be out of the price range. “We enjoyed it a lot,” she said.

Still, the optics were a bit awkward, so they decided to cancel the island sightseeing tour.

“I found it difficult for locals to see visitors from Osaka, where the infection is spreading rapidly,” she said.

Mike Ives and Tiffany May reported from Hong Kong and Makiko Inoue from Tokyo. Kim Youmi contributed to the report from Seoul, South Korea.

They defeat the virus (again and again)

Source link They defeat the virus (again and again)

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