Vaccines preferable to zero case chase, says expert

A public health expert has welcomed government plans to introduce vaccine incentives for Hong Kong, saying widespread coverage is the only way the city can return to normal.

“Hopefully, the policies would lead to an increased rate of vaccination uptake, because we’re still at a relatively low level and if the virus were to come back I think we’d face a fifth wave of infections,” University of Hong Kong Professor Benjamin Cowling said.

He added that striving for ‘zero case’ status was unsustainable in the long term.

“In Hong Kong, we’re never going to have a really, really high level of incidence of infections because we know how to stop infections from spreading.

“But the measures that are necessary to stop infections from spreading are really difficult to sustain and they’re costly, and so in the long term we can only go back to normal if we have a high vaccine coverage,” Cowling said.

On suggestions that the government may bar unvaccinated people from entering restaurants and entertainment venues in the event of a fifth wave, Cowling said this was an option but he wasn’t sure if this was suitable for Hong Kong given the city’s low vaccine coverage.

“Incentives are better than restrictions for unvaccinated people. But, at the same time, if we have a lot of cases suddenly in Hong Kong, then it wouldn’t be so safe for unvaccinated people to be out and about anyway, and we’d like to protect their health and limit the transmission of Covid in the community,” he said.

“So there’s a public health reason for really shielding and protecting people who haven’t been vaccinated.”

Liberal Party leader and lawmaker Felix Chung said the “real incentive” for people to get vaccinated is to relax their travel and quarantine restrictions.

“The real incentive is when you get vaccinated, you are allowed to leave Hong Kong, for example go to the mainland without quarantine or go to other countries without quarantine,” he told RTHK’s Jim Gould.

“Rather than just giving out theme park tickets or giving you free buffet in a hotel… I mean that would help but it’s not attractive at all. If somebody worries about the side effects, how come if you give them two Ocean Park tickets, then ‘okay, fine, I go take the vaccine’?”
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Last updated: 2021-05-31 HKT 20:50