What can China learn from Hong Kong?

"Learning from Hong Kong" : Where the coronavirus pandemic will be dealt with without a lockdown

Hong Kong has so far got through the coronavirus pandemic without a complete lockdown. A study published on Saturday suggests that testing and contact tracing, as well as changes in population behavior - measures that have far less disruptive social and economic effects than a full curfew - can usefully control the fight against the coronavirus.

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"By rapidly implementing public health measures, Hong Kong has shown that the transmission of Covid-19 can be effectively contained without resorting to the highly disruptive full lockdown introduced by China, the US and Western European countries," says the scientist Benjamin Cowling from the University of Hong Kong. He led the study published in the renowned specialist journal "Lancet Public Health".

By the end of March, Hong Kong had been able to avert a major outbreak of the coronavirus-triggered disease Covid-19 with a combination of border entry restrictions, quarantine and isolation of infected people, as well as a certain degree of contact restrictions.

The Chinese Special Administrative Region took far less drastic control measures than most other countries. In Europe, for example, only Sweden is taking a comparatively moderate course in the fight against the spread of the virus - and is often criticized for this.

The infection rate in Hong Kong has been around one in the eight weeks since the beginning of February when the measures were ordered. On Saturday, the Worldometer statistics website reported only four deaths and 1024 confirmed infected people for the 7.5 million metropolis.

The scientists also pointed out that, with the experience of the Sars epidemic in 2003, Hong Kong was better equipped than many other countries to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak.

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According to the researchers, the measures could likely be implemented in many other places around the world. "Other governments can learn from Hong Kong's success," says Cowling.

If these measures and people's behavior could be sustained while avoiding population fatigue, they could significantly reduce the impact of a local Covid-19 epidemic.

Measures in place in Hong Kong since the end of January include intensive controls for infections, not only among arriving travelers, but also in the local community. Holiday camps and newly built housing estates have been converted into quarantine facilities.

All people who crossed the border from mainland China, as well as travelers from affected countries, were quarantined for 14 days. The government also took steps to encourage social distancing, including flexible work arrangements and school closings, and many major events were canceled. 99 percent of Hong Kong residents wear face masks when they leave their home after 61 percent of the population, according to initial polls in January.

Background to the coronavirus:

The Scandinavian country of Sweden, with its ten million or more, has issued even fewer requirements and largely appeals to the common sense of its citizens. The Swedes are requested by the government to minimize social contacts and, if possible, to work in the home office, on the other hand, daycare centers and elementary schools as well as shops and restaurants are still open - subject to certain conditions.

The Swedes' strategy has caused irritation internationally and not least among neighboring countries; Compared to Finland, Norway and Denmark, which had significantly stricter requirements, Sweden has so far also recorded significantly more deaths as a result of Covid 19 disease. On Friday it was 1400. (Reuters / Lem)

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