Revise Covid strategy to fight Omicron: expert

A medical expert on Saturday advised the government to review its coronavirus measures according to the characteristics of the Omicron variant, saying that tables at restaurants must be spaced apart and the usage of partition boards should be scrapped.

Current coronavirus rules mandate that there must be a distance of at least 1.5 metres between tables at restaurants, and that partitions could alternatively act as buffers.

But Leung, the dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, explained that airborne transmission is the main route by which Omicron is spread, and partitions could block ventilation.

“If the partitions are preventing ventilation, is it better to remove them? However, restaurants must space out their tables. It’s better to space out the tables than having to close completely, I think,” he said.

He noted the government could let restaurants resume dine-in services in the evening when the coronavirus situation improves, but close at an earlier time.

Leung suggested they could close at 9pm to prevent too many people from gathering.

Meanwhile, he added that the government should step up testing for people who have high-risk jobs, such as staff at the quarantine centre in Penny’s Bay, and provide them with the N95 respirators.

Leung also warned that the Omicron outbreak is not yet under control.

He said the latest reproduction number of the virus in Hong Kong showed an infected person could still spread it to between 1 and 2.5 people.

The professor pointed out that social distancing rules have been effective in slowing its spread, but people should not be complacent as silent transmissions of the virus are taking place in the community.