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New non-invasive colorectal cancer test may lower the cost and risk of detection

  Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have identified four unique bacterial genetic sequences found in the faeces of patients with colorectal cancer. By testing for these markers, known as M3, the scientists have developed a new non-invasive test that can detect colorectal cancer with up to 94% accuracy.   The CUHK team used the M3 test on more than 1100 cancer subjects. Patients were asked to swab their faecal samples at home. The swabs were then stored in plastic vials and sent to the laboratory for analysis. The results were available in four hours.   Based on a risk scale, doctors can then use the results to predict the likelihood of the patient developing cancer, and offer dietary recommendations to reduce the risk.   Patients with high risks may then be asked to have a colonoscopy to look for cancer cells and polyps.   The M3 test can also be used to detect recurrent polyps which may develop into cancer. The scientists used the M3 test on more than 200 patients who have had polyps removed within five years. The M3 test can detect the polyps with up to 90% sensitivity.   Compared with current tests for colorectal cancer, the M3 test is more sensitive than a faecal immunochemical test and less invasive than colonoscopy. Patients do not need to prepare the bowels for testing and there is no risk of rupturing the bowels or gastrointestinal bleeding. The cost is also much less than colonoscopy since patients can collect the samples themselves.   “We are cautiously optimistic about the popularisation of the M3 test,” said Prof Francis Chan Ka-leung, Dean of Medicine and Director of the Centre for Gut Microbiota Research at CU Medicine.   “The cost for the M3 test is subject to different needs of …

Society

Hong Kong Government Land Confiscation Scheme Forces Closure of Popular Farmers Market at Mapopo Community Farm

  After more than a decade in operation, Mapopo Community Farm held its last farmers market on Sunday before permanently closing due to the Hong Kong government’s Land Resumption Ordinance.    The farmers market sells locally produced vegetables, mainly from the northeastern part of Hong Kong’s New Territories, including Ping Che (Fanling), Tsiu King (Sheung Shui) and Kwu Tong (Sheung Shui).    At two in the afternoon, about 15 people lined up outside Mapopo Community Farm to snatch up locally grown fruit and vegetables, including winter melons, pumpkins, longan and dragon fruits. Most products were sold out within the first hour.    Chatting and laughing during their visit to the market, customers filled shopping bags with green vegetables and fruits. Some visitors brought their pets and kids to the market, to witness the decline of Hong Kong local agriculture. People expressed gratitude to the farmers by leaving messages and colorful drawings in the farmer markets’ autograph book.    “The villagers are exhausted fighting for their lands,” said 26-year-old Ms. Wong, who withheld her first name. She said she has heard of the land resumption scheme since she was a student.     The scheme, officially announced in 1998, allowed the government to claim the land for residential purposes, in order to handle the growing population in Hong Kong.    Farmlands in Kwu Tong North, Fanling North and Ping Che/Ta Ku Ling have been identified by the Hong Kong government to be new development areas.The rural areas in northeast New Territories will be used for commercial and residential land.    However, the development plan was rejected by the farmers. They worried that the residential and commercial land development would reduce the amount of farmland, thus deteriorating the farmer’s livelihood.    Following several legal challenges by residents of Ma Shi Po Village, …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong to ban plastic tableware at restaurants from 2025

The Hong Kong government planned to ban all types of disposable plastic tableware at restaurants from 2025, according to an announcement made on Friday. The city’s Environment Protection Department, which is seeking public opinion on the proposal during the next two months, said parts of plastic cutlery often packaged in take-away services would also be banned.  A consultation paper, released by the government on Friday, proposed to ban the local sale of disposable expanded polystyrene (EPS) utensils and discontinue their use at restaurants within four years. Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment of the HKSAR Government, wrote in the consultation paper that, “ practising ‘plastic-free’ at the source is the most fundamental way to achieve ‘waste free seas’.”  “Countless waste plastics enter the natural environment, including the ocean, each year,” he wrote in the document. “They will eventually be fragmented into microplastics and enter the human food chain.”  The department also suggested regulating the use of non-EPS plastic tableware for dine-in and take-away services in phases.  The first stage was to ban all types of disposable tableware offered to dine-in customers at restaurants, with disposable cutlery, such as straws, knives and forks, banned in take-away food and beverage services. Take-away services would be regulated the same as dine-in services in the second stage, according to the statement. Chung Wai-yi, the owner of a ramen restaurant, said they were using recyclable plastic chopsticks and plastic food containers for take-away services.   She supported the ban on disposable plastic tableware.  “I always support the environmentally friendly promotion in Hong Kong, but this time, I hope the government can make it a reality rather than just talking,” she said.  She expected the government to make laws and regulations on plastic use in the catering industry to ensure fair competition, and also find good substitutes …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong’s first Chinese medicine hospital to provide training for local students

        Construction of Hong Kong’s first Chinese Medicine Hospital is expected to start in Tseung Kwan O in a couple of days. Speaking at a launch ceremony today, Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan Siu-chee described it as a milestone in the development of traditional Chinese medicine in the city.    Dr. Cheung Wai-lun, project director of the Chinese Medicine Hospital, said the facilities will include around 400 beds, 70 diagnostic rooms and 45 treatment rooms. The new hospital is expected to serve about 310,000 outpatients every year.    “About 200 Chinese medicine practitioners will participate in training and research at the Chinese Medicine Hospital,” Dr. Cheung said. The hospital will also recruit both full-time and part-time traditional Chinese medicine workers.   The hospital will be run by Hong Kong Baptist University under a private-public partnership arrangement and about 65% of the services will be government-funded.   At the moment, traditional Chinese medicine students in Hong Kong have to go to the mainland for their internships. But once the new hospital comes into operation, a third of the students from three local universities can do their internships in Hong Kong initially.   The hospital will come into service in phases from 2025 and eventually up to half of the local students can be trained there.   Professor Alexander Wai Ping-kong, president of Hong Kong Baptist University said the Chinese Medicine Hospital will hire Chineses medicine practitioners from Hong Kong, the mainland and other countries.   Yao Yuzhen, a mainland student studying Chinese medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University, hoped the new hospital will make it more convenient to conduct scientific research.   “Hong Kong does not have any inpatient department in traditional Chinese medicine right now,   so there can only be limited use of some …

Health & Environment

Walk-in COVID-19 jabs for elderly please, say doctors

      The Hong Kong College of Physicians is calling on the government to allow people aged over 60 years to be vaccinated against COVID-19 without having to make an online booking. Speaking at a press conference today, HKCP president Professor Li Kam-tao said many elderly people have difficulties accessing the online booking system. He also called on the government to do more to eliminate elderly people’s misunderstandings about the side effects of vaccination. The college made the calls after a survey it commissioned found that only 5% of the elderly aged between 70 and 79 in Hong Kong have been vaccinated, and the figure for those aged over 80 is just 1%.  “The vaccination rate (of Hong Kong’s elderly) is among the lowest in the world,” said Dr. Tsang Tak-yin, chairman of the HKCP’s infection and infectious diseases committee. Dr. Chan Tak-yeung, secretary of the college’s geriatrics committee, said many elderly people, particularly those with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart problems, were worried about the safety and side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. Chan Yuk-yin, 65, who has rheumatoid and vascular diseases, told The Young Reporter in a phone interview that she had reservations about being vaccinated as she was worried about her body’s possible adverse reactions to the vaccines. Chung Yuk-ching, 62, said she would not get vaccinated because of worries about the side effects and doubts about the efficacy of the vaccines.  “Vaccination cannot protect me permanently; it would be a problem for me to get vaccinated every year,” she said.  However, Dr. Chan said studies have shown that vaccinated elderly people are less likely to suffer pain at the injection site and fever than younger people, and the side effects are usually mild. The saying that elderly people with chronic diseases cannot be …

Health & Environment

China ministry: Taishan nuclear plant running safely, stably

The Taishan nuclear power plant in Guangdong Province has been operating safely and stably, and no abnormality in the surrounding environment has been observed, China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in a statement released today.   According to CNN on Monday, the US government assessed a report of a leak at the Taishan nuclear plant and that China’s nuclear safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the power plant.   The statement from the ministry said China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration did not raise the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside, and it claimed CNN’s report was misleading.    Under scrutiny was the increase of the coolant in the primary circuit reactor of plant number one during the unit’s operation. The ministry said this activity was still within the range for stable running as regulated by the technical standard of the nuclear power plant operation.   It was estimated that five fuel rod claddings were damaged. This is less than 0.01% of the total fuel rods and much lower than the maximum assumed damages in the design of the fuel assembly, the ministry added.   After attending the Legislative Council meeting today, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu told reporters that the operation of the Taishan nuclear plant is within all the requirements regarding nuclear power safety and of no indication of any effect on the environment.    Mr. Lee added that the release of information about the Taishan nuclear plant operation will be in accordance with international standards.    “So far, what we have been informed up to now is (regarding the operation of Taishan Nuclear Power Plant), there were only two incidents which are classified as zero events,” Mr. Lee said. “In other words, they do not affect in any way …

Health & Environment

Only one in four will get jabs, says survey

Only a quarter of unvaccinated people intend to be inoculated against the Covid-19 virus over the next six months, a survey has found. The findings have led researchers to conclude that the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine remains low in Hong Kong, which still has a long way towards reaching herd immunity. The Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong interviewed 1,200 Cantonese or Mandarin-speaking Hong Kong residents in a telephone survey conducted between April 23 and May 8. It found that 76.1% of the respondents had not taken any jabs, and only 25.1% of them said they would make or had made reservations to be inoculated in the coming six months. Professor Paul Chan Kay-sheung, chairman of the university’s Department of Microbiology, said it was alarming that the predicted acceptance of vaccination was only 37%, which was much lower than the target required for herd immunity protection or for relaxing of containment measures required for the recovery of the economy. “Hong Kong should set a goal of vaccine coverage of at least 70% through informed, voluntary vaccination,” said Professor Chan. To achieve the target, he suggests the Government could proactively address people’s concerns over the new form of vaccines purchased by Hong Kong, the vaccine manufacturers’ track record and the country of production. According to the survey results, belief of fatal side effects after vaccination is the major reason why people do not want to be vaccinated, followed by a lack of confidence in the government’s recommendations and in the place of vaccine production, and waiting for a better vaccine. Professor Eliza Wong Lai-yi of the university’s Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care said people were hesitant about getting vaccinated because there were few reports about the effectiveness of the vaccines, but a …

Society

Hong Kong workers suffer from mental health issues, research shows

Hongkongers are overworked and stressed out, research shows. More than 60% of workers have symptoms of “burnout,” including easily getting tired and losing interest in everything, according to research by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong and Tung Wah College. A quarter of interviewees said they feel “extremely depressed or anxious.” More than a third work overtime with an average 48.4 hours per week despite an average contract of 41 hours per week, the research found.  “Hong Kong is starting late for promoting workplace mental health,” Lawrence Lam, Vice President of Tung Wah College, said in a press conference today.  Most surveyed said they did not have flexible working hours. “We encourage enterprises to have ‘Mental Health Workplace Policies’, including family friendly policies and flexible working hours,” Stephen Wong, the Assistant Director General of the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong, said at the press conference. Mr Wong said employees should learn more about mental health, pay attention to the mental health condition of people around them and develop a caring culture in the workplace.  It is normal to have high working pressure in Hong Kong and having workshops and online lessons is a waste of time, Steve Lam, 47, a clerk in a telecom firm, said. “The best way to release our pressure is to give us more holidays,” said Mr Lam. “It is good to have positive communications, but managers need to communicate and understand us first.”  “I think having lessons and workshops will work, it will help reduce our working pressure,” said Brook Chan, who is in his 30s and works in customer service.  The researchers interviewed 213 full-time employees from two different enterprises and plan to talk to 400 more of different backgrounds and ranks, said Prof Lam. The full report will be released at …

Health & Environment

38-day Covid-free streak broken as policeman confirmed to be infected

Hong Kong’s 38-day streak without an untraceable Covid-19 case has ended, with a 35-year-old male policeman confirmed to have been infected today. The Centre for Health Protection said a sample of the officer’s saliva had tested positive, but the result of another test conducted after he was admitted to hospital was negative.    However, as a precautionary move, about 40 to 50 of the officer’s close contacts were being quarantined and further tests would be conducted to confirm if he was really infected, said officials. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has defended the government’s warning that those who have been inoculated against the virus may not be allowed to enter restaurants or entertainment venues if another wave of infection hits Hong Kong. The idea was not meant to punish those who had not been vaccinated, but aimed at protecting public health, she said before today’s Executive Council meeting.  A high vaccination rate would give us a “vaccine barrier” if we were unfortunately hit by a fifth wave of infection, she said. If the ideal vaccination rate could be achieved by the end of August, then those measures would not be needed, she said. Heeding a call from the government, more and more companies are providing different kinds of incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated, including cash handouts, air tickets, meal coupons, theme park tickets and anti-epidemic supplies. The most eye-catching reward is a $10.8 million apartment donated by the Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation, a subsidiary company of the Hong Kong Sino Group and the Chinese Estates Holdings Limited.  Lucy Lang, a university student, said the reward was attractive. “Hong Kong is known for its high housing prices. If you can get a flat, it will reduce a lot of burden on your life after graduation,” she said.  …

Health & Environment

COVID-19 means smoking more for some youths

Mandatory masking because of the COVID-19 pandemic has discouraged some young people from smoking in public, but it has also prompted others to smoke more at home. That is what The Young Reporter found after talking to a number of young people on the World No Tobacco Day 2021 today.  Even though the theme of the United Nations initiative this year is “Commit to quit”, it appears not too many university students have made a commitment to do so. A 22-year-old university student who would only be identified as Mr Wong said he had to reduce smoking since the outbreak of the pandemic because he could not smoke on the streets, worrying that he might be caught by police for not wearing a mask. Due to the switch to online learning, he said he had few opportunities to go out and had been smoking less as he did not want to subject his family members to the risk of second-hand smoke. However, for students who live on their own, the pandemic has meant smoking more. Jia Fengyuan, a 20-year-old student who lives off-campus, said he had been smoking more because he was spending more time at home. “Usually smoking is banned on the campus, but I can switch off the camera for a while and have a cigarette when I have online classes at home,” said Jia, who added that his roommates did not mind him smoking. Another 20-year-old student from the mainland, who would only be identified by his surname of Luo, also said he had been smoking since arriving in Hong Kong during the pandemic, as he had more time staying alone indoors due to online learning and didn't need to worry about his family being affected by second-hand smoking. In his message marking the World No Tobacco …