Professor Gabriel Leung recommends tighter measures as instantaneous reproduction rate of the COVID-19 virus reaches 1.84 in HK


22nd November 2020 – (Hong Kong) The 4th wave of COVID-19 epidemic has returned to Hong Kong. Professor Gabriel Leung, Hong Kong physician, epidemiologist and government expert consultant, serving as the 40th and current Dean of the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong stated on a TV program today (22nd) that the fourth wave of the epidemic has broken out. It is recommended that the authorities designate quarantine hotels to plug loopholes and set up quarantine centres in 18 districts in Hong Kong. They should als distribute and collect sample bottles at MTR stations.

Regarding the government granting allowances to confirmed citizens, he believes that it is necessary to be sympathetic to grassroot citizens but there should be guidelines to avoid abuse. Leung said that the number of confirmed local cases has increased exponentially in the past few days, and the instantaneous reproduction rate of the virus reached 1.84 (a number greater than 1 means that the virus can spread to many people), reflecting that the fourth wave of the epidemic has begun. Leung believes that the current virus has great potential to cause super-spread in the community.

Although about 70% of patients will not have second-generation infection, 10% to 20% of patients can spread the virus on a large scale, causing second and third-generation infections. As for the source of the fourth wave of the epidemic, he believes that it has nothing to do with the third wave, but from an imported case from Nepal in mid-October, when a loophole in the hotel quarantine led to the introduction of the virus into the community.

He expects that many international students will return to Hong Kong from areas with severe epidemics such as the United Kingdom and the United States in the next few months. He suggested that in addition to prohibiting visits to quarantined persons in hotels, the authorities should designate quarantine hotels to avoid contact between citizens and quarantined persons and reduce the risk of the virus entering the community .

Leung also believes that the government has introduced social distancing measures such as working from home, class suspension, and banning meals before. It has learned a lot of experience and lessons to help formulate more precise epidemic prevention policies. Compared with the third wave of the epidemic, the current laboratory testing volume has broken the bottleneck, but it has not been able to benefit the people. He suggested that the government set up testing centres in 18 districts to make testing as convenient as possible, and distribute and collect sample bottles at every MTR station. In addition, social distancing measures also have room for narrowing.

As for the government granting a lump-sum allowance of HK$5,000 to infected citizens, Leung agreed that it is necessary to be sympathetic to grassroots especially those without a fixed monthly salary, such as taxi drivers. However, if granting allowances to citizens with stable monthly wages, it would distort the original intention and there should be guidelines for granting allowances.