Why HK’s COVID Response Worked

HK Covid response

The Hong Kong government early and prompt interventions in implementing infection prevention and control strategies significantly contributed to the contained transmission of COVID-19 and the effective management of confirmed cases. On January 25th, Hong Kong chief executive Mrs Carrie Lam announced the shift from the “Preparedness and Response Plan for Novel Infectious diseases of Public Health Significance” to the “Emergency Response Level” effective immediately. Five months later, Hong Kong local authorities confirm 1248 cases, 1125 recoveries and only 7 fatalities since the beginning of the epidemic in December 2019. Considering the proximate geographical location to mainland China, these data are a successful representation of the implemented strategies.

People wearing masks

The preparedness and prompt implementation of control strategies in Hong Kong may serve as a future example to other countries in the European Union (EU) and United States (US) for the management of rapidly growing infectious outbreaks. Western countries are generally less affected by epidemics and thus less responsive to the immediate public health threats these can pose. Mask wearing for personal and environmental protection from infectious pathogens is also a less frequent and less culturally embedded practice. Delayed interventions and public negligence in the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) are major causes of the extensive transmission and infection burden associated with COVID-19 in European countries and the US. Greater focus on prevention strategies aimed at strengthening and boosting the immune system and maintain a healthy lifestyle, rather than cognitive debilitating fear tactics should be given priority during ongoing and future pandemics.

Hong Kong is still implementing strict controls among inbound travellers who are required to provide a saliva sample for COVID-19 testing, wait for test results and proceed with 14-day compulsory quarantine unless exempted by official authorities. Hong Kong government early recognition of the necessity to adopt infection prevention and control management strategies for public health safety allowed the public to be adequately informed and educated about the necessary wearing of PPE and strict hand hygiene practices without causing unnecessary fear and shortages of medical and PPE supplies.

Top face masks exporters
Top exporters of face masks

China is the number one exporter of face masks and other PPE followed by Germany and the US, together they account for 41% of medical products export worldwide. World trade organization (WTO) report declares China, Hong Kong, Macao and Singapore as the only four member states which allow the duty-free entry of all essential medical products within WTO countries. In April 2020, China’s strengthened quality control measures to meet importers quality standard regulations for the export of PPE and other medical products including COVID-19 testing kits. Shortly thereafter, as the outbreak and transmission were kept under control, Hong Kong developed into a hub for the export of certified medical equipment from the nearby factories in mainland China. With the significant increase in demand for certified and high-quality medical equipment, the Hong Kong Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (HKSAR government) is collaborating with the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) to strengthen and define the resilience strategy aimed at the employment of local sub-contractors and the export of high quality medical raw materials and products to foreign manufacturers.

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