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COVID-19 crystal ball


The hardest thing in life is predicting the future with any degree of certainty, but wisdom dictates that we be prepared for what lies ahead based on past experience, common sense, and current trends. In that spirit, here are a few thoughts on what the immediate future looks like with regards to COVID-19:

1) Countries with high vaccination rates such as the US and UK are going to advance quickly into a post-COVID era, which will be characterised by low COVID-19 community transmission and even lower rates of hospitalisation/deaths due to the virus. As they pass the so-called 'herd immunity threshold', life will more or less return to a pre-COVID normal. There will certainly still be cases of COVID-19 and even outbreaks in these countries, but the impact on society as a whole will be reduced. Israel, a shining example of rapid vaccine rollout, has recovered sufficiently well to even wage a war...  

2) However, many parts of the world have slower vaccination rollouts. For many countries, this is because of a lack of vaccine availability due to insufficient funds. However, for some places like Hong Kong, this is due to a tragic lack of public engagement in the COVID-19 vaccination drive. The same virtue that led us to don masks early has now turned into a vice: many people sincerely believe that long-term masking is a satisfactory solution to the COVID-19 problem. Surgical masks cannot be worn all the time, are less protective than vaccination, and are not environmentally sustainable.

3) Places with poor vaccination rollout like HK are stuck in a limbo. Vast amounts of money are spent on test/trace and isolation/quarantine to maintain a tenuous 'zero-COVID' state. Outbreaks flare at regular intervals. Such outbreaks place a strain on even well-resourced healthcare systems. Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan have demonstrated this clearly.

4)What about travel? At least in the short term, travel will increasingly become contingent on vaccination. As clearly exemplified by the constantly bursting HK-SG ATB, travel will also depend on both destinations maintaining a reasonable degree of COVID-19 control. Place A with a high vaccination rate would be completely reasonable to impose tough travel restrictions on place B with low rates, because the chance of a traveler from place B having COVID-19 is high. This will put HK at an increasing disadvantage when negotiating border opening arrangements, even with the mainland let alone farther destinations.

There is an incorrect assumption in this city that COVID-19 vaccination is not urgent. It is actually incredibly urgent. Good, safe, high-quality vaccines are expiring soon.
Do not wait for a travel incentive before getting jabbed. Travel without restrictions is contingent on sustained COVID-19 control in this city, which is ONLY achievable by vaccination.

HK has an enviable opportunity to enter the post-COVID era rapidly. Let us take this gift with both hands and avert a grim era of increasing isolation.

First published on author’s Facebook


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