Cowling says Omicron may evade latest measures

A prominent medical expert has warned that measures that were effective against previous waves of coronavirus, may not work as well against the Omicron variant.

Benjamin Cowling from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health said on Friday that working-from-home and school closures – may not be effective because the Omicron variant is much more transmissible than previous variants.

“If we look at the measures that were used in the third wave and the fourth wave – meaning school closures, work-at-home, stopping larger groups of people from gathering and so on – those measures in the third and fourth wave were just about enough to control that virus,” Cowling said.

“Omicron, that we face now, is much more transmissible and I’m not sure that those measures used before would be sufficient to control Omicron in the community now.”

Cowling said the focus should be on elderly vaccinations, rather than allowing children as young as five to get inoculated.

Cowling also said an order the cull hamsters and small animals that arrived in the SAR in late December came too late, as any transmission from animal-to-human would have already occurred.

Cowling also repeated his earlier call for the SAR to consider investing in a designated quarantine facility to manage the risk of infection from new arrivals.

“We really need a specialised facility for on-arrival quarantine, and now, unfortunately, we’ve had a transmission in a quarantine hotel which has started a community outbreak,” Cowling said.

“I think if we’re looking to sustain zero covid, if this outbreak comes under control [and[] if we’re looking to sustain it for the coming year, really we have to look seriously at controlling inbound travellers, controlling the risk from inbound travellers with purpose-built facilities, maybe near the airport.”