With the advent of winter, the temperature in Hong Kong is also dropping sharply, and the new crown epidemic is heating up again. The number of confirmed cases in a single day has hovered at a high level for several days and even jumped to tens of thousands.

However, there has never been a geometric rise like the fifth wave of the epidemic at the beginning of the year. Li Xiayin, deputy director of the Medical and Health Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, said in an epidemic briefing a few days ago when answering reporters' questions that there is still room to observe the development of the epidemic and not to rush to tighten the epidemic situation. Epidemic prevention measures.

The picture shows the Hong Kong epidemic briefing.

Photo by Chen Yongnuo

  As we all know, a series of anti-epidemic measures in Hong Kong, including entry quarantine measures and social distancing measures, have been relaxed in an orderly manner this year, social activities have largely returned to normal, the number of tourists visiting Hong Kong is also rising, and multiple new mutated virus strains of Omicron are also appearing. It appeared locally, but why did not see another large-scale outbreak of the epidemic?

What is the pathogenicity and mortality of the currently circulating virus?

What experience or enlightenment does Hong Kong have in fighting the epidemic?

Regarding related issues, a reporter from China News Agency interviewed two Hong Kong medical experts Xu Shuchang and Jin Dongyan to dismantle them one by one.

  Question 1: The epidemic prevention has been relaxed and the epidemic has been repeated, but no major outbreaks have been seen?

  Expert Answer: A mixed immune barrier is established.

  Before analyzing the trend of the epidemic, we must first understand why there is a new round of increase in confirmed cases in Hong Kong.

"That's because most people in Hong Kong have acquired antibodies through natural infection or vaccination, and their immunity gradually declines after a period of time." But Jin Dongyan, a professor of biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong and a virologist, emphasized that this does not change the fact that , After natural infection or a fairly high vaccination rate, Hong Kong has mixed immunity, forming a herd immunity barrier.

Simply put, the general public has a relatively strong immunity to the virus.

  Jin Dongyan mentioned that a study by the University of Hong Kong showed that in February this year, the overall neutralizing antibody protection rate in Hong Kong was only 20%, "so there will be a fifth wave of epidemics", and by May this figure had risen to 90%. This level has been maintained since then, so the spread of the virus has been greatly reduced.

  Xu Shuchang, an expert consultant to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and chair professor of respiratory system at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, pointed out that the overall vaccination rate in Hong Kong was low when the fifth wave of the epidemic broke out, but the current one-dose and two-dose vaccination rates have exceeded 90%, and the three-dose vaccination rate has exceeded 90%. reached 82%.

Coupled with the fact that there have been considerable group infections, the mixed immunity has formed a good barrier to reducing severe illness and death.

  Question 2: What is the threat of new mutant virus strains emerging and spreading continuously?

  Expert answer: Omicron is significantly weaker than Alpha and Delta, and the virus mutation tends to be stable.

  Both Xu Shuchang and Jin Dongyan believe that since the epidemic has developed, Omicron has been significantly weakened compared to the first few generations of viruses, such as Alpha and Delta.

  "Although Omicron is highly contagious, the overall condition is not very serious." Xu Shuchang said that although the current daily cases are hovering around 9,000, the overall condition is mild and the severity is rare.

As far as he knows, there are currently only 20 to 30 confirmed patients who need to be admitted to the intensive care unit (the intensive care unit) of a public hospital. During the fifth wave of the epidemic, the average number of patients in the intensive care unit of a public hospital has exceeded this number. a number.

  As for the new mutant virus strains that have recently flowed into Hong Kong, such as XBB and XBD, Jin Dongyan believes that they all belong to a kind of "drift", that is, small changes. During this process, the characteristics of the virus, infectivity, pathogenicity, and immune escape There will be no major changes.

"We already have enough tools to deal with it and minimize its impact on normal human life and economic activities."

Hong Kong has relaxed anti-epidemic measures, and the daily life and economic activities of citizens are returning to normal.

Photo by Chen Yongnuo

  Question 3: What is the explanation for the increase in the number of deaths recorded in Hong Kong?

  Expert Answer: The calculation standards for death cases are different, and the actual death rate is lower than the reported figure.

Most of the deaths were people with chronic medical conditions who had not been vaccinated.

  When counting the death cases of the new coronavirus in different regions, the calculation standards and habits are different, and direct horizontal comparisons cannot be made.

Jin Dongyan said that in Hong Kong, as long as the deceased died within 28 days of the first positive sample collection date, it would be counted as a new crown death case, and it would not distinguish whether the death was caused by the new crown or the death was accompanied by the new crown infection.

An extreme example is that the deceased who died due to a fall from a height will also be counted in the death cases of the new crown because they tested positive for the new crown virus.

Jin Dongyan pointed out that this means that the death rate is lower than the currently published figures.

  Xu Shuchang provided research estimates on this: about 60% to 70% of the death cases currently counted are more likely to die from the new coronavirus infection, and the other death cases are temporarily judged to be more likely to die from other diseases or reasons, such as stroke, Caused by cerebral hemorrhage.

  Moreover, most of the deaths were elderly people with chronic illnesses who had not been vaccinated.

According to figures released by the Center for Health Protection of the Department of Health of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, more than 95% of all deaths were elderly people aged 60 or above, more than 90% had known chronic diseases, and more than 60% had never been vaccinated.

Hong Kong focuses on "one old and one young" to push up vaccine coverage

  "The old and the young" have always been the focus groups of the SAR government. Jin Dongyan believes that only when these two groups are protected can the society be safer.

He took Singapore as an example. The overall number of infection cases is similar to that of Hong Kong, but the number of deaths is only one-fifth of that in Hong Kong. The key is that the vaccination rate of Singaporeans over 80 years old is as high as 90%.

The Hong Kong SAR government focuses on "one old and one young" and is committed to increasing the vaccination rate of relevant groups.

Photo by Chen Yongnuo

  In fact, the SAR government has taken a multi-pronged approach and spared no effort in promoting vaccination. It has continuously improved the distribution network of vaccination points in various districts, and provided a variety of vaccine options suitable for different ages at the same mobile vaccination station; To develop vaccination arrangements, arrange medical staff to vaccinate in nursing homes and homes for the disabled, and also mobilize family doctors trusted by the elderly in the community to encourage the elderly to vaccinate; actively purchase bivalent vaccines that can target new mutant strains Vaccinations are open to the public.

  The "vaccine pass" arrangement has also helped to increase the vaccination rate. "Many elderly people in Hong Kong have the habit of drinking morning tea, but if they have not been vaccinated, they are not allowed to enter restaurants, restaurants and other places, which has played a disguised role in promoting vaccination. "Jin Dongyan said.

The Hong Kong SAR government focuses on "one old and one young" and is committed to increasing the vaccination rate of relevant groups.

Photo by Chen Yongnuo

Highlights of Hong Kong's experience: There is a degree of relaxation, never "lying flat"

  Generally speaking, after experiencing the fifth wave of the epidemic, Hong Kong has relaxed its epidemic prevention measures in an orderly manner, but this does not mean "breaking the can" or "laying flat". Hong Kong is still implementing a strict epidemic prevention system.

  First of all, the SAR government will routinely conduct virus monitoring on sewer sewage. Residents of buildings with high levels of virus must undergo compulsory testing, and those who do not comply with the regulations will be severely punished; "It has never been relaxed; in addition, I have to mention the "vaccine pass", which must be shown when entering restaurants, fitness centers, swimming pools and other public places. In other words, it is difficult to move in Hong Kong without vaccination.

Hong Kong strictly implements the "vaccine passport" arrangement.

Photo by Chen Yongnuo

  Although the epidemic has repeatedly occurred in the past six months or so, the current number of cases has increased by about eight times when it was at a low level, but the number of deaths has nearly tripled, which reflects that the death rate has actually decreased.

At the same time, the number of arrivals rose, but the number of imported cases remained stable.

Lin Zhexuan, a member of the Hong Kong SAR Legislative Council (Medical and Health Sector), believes that on this basis, it is reasonable to appropriately relax social distancing measures.

  Based on the opinions of many medical experts, there are many remarkable points in Hong Kong's many anti-epidemic practices:

  1) Implement the "vaccine pass" arrangement, and strive to increase the vaccination rate to form an immune barrier;

  2) In terms of vaccination, provide a variety of vaccine options and encourage citizens to mix vaccines to improve the effect;

  3) Simplify the post-diagnosis process: recognize the positive results of the rapid antigen test, and triage the confirmed patients. Those with mild conditions can be isolated at home and see a doctor through video. Treatment, this arrangement greatly reduces the pressure on the medical system, and at the same time shortens the patient's condition and reduces the possibility of deterioration.

  Writer: Han Xingtong

  Photographer: Chen Yongnuo