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It will be essential for there to be a full and impartial review of the response of each and every country to the global pandemic. That is the nature of science, accountability and responsibility. There will be internal political tensions exposed with attempts to re-write history. After the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003 it was felt appropriate to ask for an independent evaluation of the performance of the HKSAR government in dealing with what was at that time an unprecedented crisis in public health. The person who led that independent review was Professor Sian Griffiths. You can read more about her background in the following URL

https://radar.brookes.ac.uk/radar/file/56248ff8-244b-426f-b0aa-3c4778bc5db6/1/siangriffiths.pdf

I wonder what she is doing now because the UK desperately needs someone with experience and sense to review the response of the government. It is important that documents are retained and there is no attempt to ‘re-write’ history. One of the most damaging and tragic policies was to return elderly people from hospital care, to care homes, without testing whether the person being transferred had the virus. Was that a political or a medical decision? Who signed off on such a lethal policy? It was wrong, it was shameful and yet not the only gross miscalculation made by the UK government. But let us not forget the NHS management who a few years ago were so quick to try and destroy the career of a Muslim, female junior doctor (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jpc.13886). The term corporate manslaughter may be appropriate.

The crackpot policy of ‘herd immunity’ just allowed the lethal virus to spread without containment through society and tens of thousands of people were infected and thousands have died unnecessarily. It seems so long ago but it has in fact only been two months since my first ‘Letter from Hong Kong’ when I brought up the question of masks. Little did I ever imagine at that time that this would become such a contentious issue. Masks to stop the spread of the virus, not to stop contracting it. But for masks to work they need to be worn by all.

Social distancing is a luxury that only the wealthy, or non-urban dwellers, can really afford. For those that use public transport, those that gather at school gates to pick up children, those who queue up in the supermarket to buy their goods – social distancing is not feasible, but masks are. In the UK the ‘lockdown’ was arguably too little, too late. It is too painful to comment on the Dominic Cummins situation but for me Johnson’s government has lost all credibility.

So, in Hong Kong we are loosening up the social restrictions. Before today there were 20 days in the last month without any locally transmitted cases. Karaoke lounges, party venues, bathhouses and nightclubs have re-opened. No more than four people will be allowed at each table in a night club which must operate at half their normal capacity. Karaoke lounges and party venues can allow eight people per room. All venues must ensure customers wear masks, have temperature checks and use hand sanitiser.

Schools are re-opening in Hong Kong. Cautiously. I wonder how many people are aware of why schools were closed as part of the mitigation process? It is not to protect the children but to reduce the dissemination of viral diseases. All parents will know that children are very generous in spreading their germs and I have often thought that it is no coincidence that flu season follows soon after the commencement of the new school year. If children are going to go back to school, they MUST wear masks in the classroom. They are potential vectors for the spread of a disease that is going to affect the more vulnerable members of society, the elderly, those with chronic disabilities and the poor. The tragedy that occurred in care homes was either a cynical calculation or a grossly negligent miscalculation. Either way it must not be forgotten, and lessons must be learnt for the next time. Returning children to school, whilst the virus is still widely present in society, is foolish, is reckless and is just plain wrong.

I urge you all to look at this blog written on 28 January 2020 https://www.otandp.com/blog/coronavirus-explanation-of-public-health-measures. It is just one of a series of blogs published on the website of the OT&P Healthcare Company. The UK and Hong Kong had the same start. How have things become so different? Hong Kong has never claimed to be perfect but how can things in the UK have gone so terribly wrong?

CONTRIBUTOR
Andrew Burd (Prof)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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