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Society

China’s SinoVac And Sinopharm Included In UK Approved Vaccine List

The United Kingdom Government announced that they would be recognizing the World Health Organization’s list of emergency-use COVID-19 vaccines, including China’s SinoVac and Sinopharm, starting from today (22 November).  Apart from the two newly added vaccines, others such as Pifzer (also named BioNtech), Covishield,  AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson, and Covaxin are all on the list. Individuals who are vaccinated with the above vaccines will be allowed to visit the United Kingdom (UK) without a proof of negative results from COVID-19 testing, and are free from quarantine after arrival. Only one screening test is required after the day they arrive.  According to the UK Health Security Agency (HSA), 40,941 infections and 150 deaths were recorded on 20 November. The data released last week also shows the infections among school pupils aged between 10-19 increased from 571.7 cases per 100,000 students on 7 November to 694.2 cases to 14 November.  England also announced simplification on immigration procedures in early November. Individuals who are under 18 will be considered as fully vaccinated, they would not be subjected to mandatory pre-departure screening and quarantine upon their visits to the UK, but only one post-arrival test. Regarding the relaxation of travel restrictions, the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated that, “as we continue to recover from the pandemic and expand our recognition of international vaccines, today's announcements mark the next step in our restart of international travel.” Wong Lok-sze, a year 3 student studying in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who is going to the UK for an exchange next month, said  “it is actually more convenient for me because I don't have to quarantine either.” “But I would also be worried about other people who do not need to be quarantined, and I would prefer to have a quarantine policy,” she added.  Wong is …

Society

Public disappointed after cloudy weather distorts rare lunar eclipse

The longest partial lunar eclipse since the 15th century took place today, according to Indiana’s Holcomb Observatory. The partial lunar eclipse began at 3:19 pm and ended at 6:47 pm, lasting for three hours and 28 minutes, according to NASA. It marked the longest partial lunar eclipse in 581 years. The last partial lunar eclipse that stretched longer happened on Feb. 18, 1440. In Hong Kong, the partial eclipse was visible during moonrise from 5:38 pm and ended at 6:47 pm, according to the Hong Kong Space Museum. The Hong Kong Space Museum said that a partial lunar eclipse is divided into five stages. Only the two stages, “Moon exits umbra” and “Moon exits penumbra” were visible in Hong Kong during the time of the eclipse. Unfortunately for people who gathered for this rare celestial event, the eclipse was barely visible. The Museum said that people would not be able to clearly see the partial lunar eclipse since the moon was at a low altitude and the sky was not completely dark while the eclipse was in progress, “We cannot see the whole partial eclipse process this time” Chan Chun-lam, the assistant curator of Hong Kong Space Museum said. When the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon align, the Moon enters the Earth's shadow, resulting in a lunar eclipse including penumbral eclipse, partial eclipse and total eclipse, depending on how the Moon comes in contact with the Earth's shadow, according to Hong Kong Observatory. “During the partial lunar eclipse, the moon is not completely obscured by the umbra, the dark and inner shadow of the Earth. So only the eclipsed part turns black, the rest of the moon is only slightly darkened,” Chan said. The next time the Earth will see a partial lunar eclipse as lengthy as today’s will …

Society

Mental health impact of quarantine under COVID-19

Charlene Flores and her husband nearly got divorced in the last two hours of a 14-day quarantine. “We ended up arguing. There were a lot of rules. It really affected our mental well-being," said Ms Flores.  Those who have to be confined in a room for weeks report impacts on their mental health because of the resulting loneliness and anxiety. She is a French freelance photographer for Paris-based national newspapers and magazines and has lived in Hong Kong since January 2020. Ms Flores, her 14-month old daughter and her 36-year old husband stayed at the Iclub Ma Tau Wai Hotel. She arrived in Hong Kong on August 18.  Hong Kong has some of the strictest quarantine requirements in the world.  Depending on which risk level their originating country falls under, the Department of Health requires in-bound travellers to be quarantined at designated hotels for either two or three weeks. As of September, fully vaccinated Hong Kong residents from “high risk” (or Group A) countries, including the UK, France, India, and Thailand, had to be quarantined for 21 days.  Fully vaccinated travellers arriving from “medium risk” (or Group B) countries must test negative for Covid-19 and quarantine for 14 days while the unvaccinated in this group must quarantine for 21 days.  Currently, the only places that fall under the “low risk” (Group C) category include New Zealand, mainland China and Macao. Non-Hong Kong and Hong Kong residents are required to quarantine for seven days if vaccinated, and 14 if not. "It was a tough, expensive and stressful experience. We were always afraid that there might be a false negative test or being identified as a close contact," said Mrs Flores.  Karman Leung, Chief Executive of the Samaritan’s Hong Kong, an independent non-governmental organisation, said they receive approximately three to five calls …

Society

Man with facial paralysis after vaccination denied insurance money after hospital fails to report case

A man whose face was partially paralized after receiving the second BioNTech vaccine on August 31 was denied compensation because his case was not reported to the Department of Health, he said in a press conference. The man, who goes by the alias Mr Y, was rushed to the Princess Margaret Hospital on Sept 2. and was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. He applied to insurance company AXA Hong Kong on Sept 9 under the government’s compensation plan for those adversely affected by the vaccine. But his application was denied since the hospital did not report his case to the Department of Health. The man said the hospital told him it will report his case after approval, but it has not been done yet. Democratic Party health policy spokesperson, Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, worried that the number of adverse post-vaccination cases is understated. “Does it mean that there are many cases like Mr Y that have not been reported?” Yuen said. “It’s impossible for the public to verify that, while the number of residual vaccine symptoms is very likely to be underestimated.” Yuen said the Department of Health should actively encourage medical staff to report serious cases involving vaccines and provide the public access to reports. "When encouraging citizens to vaccinate, the authorities should also protect people’s personal rights, like the right to know and the right to make decisions," Yuen said Health authorities in Hong Kong have confirmed 288 cases of Bell’s palsy after vaccination. Most patients will recover from facial paralysis even without treatment. As of end September, the Department of Health received a total of 6,108 reports of serious adverse events of Covid vaccine in people aged from 12 to 87. A total of HK$5.19 million has been given out with an average of HK$113,000 for each approved case.

Society

Clogged sinks, awful food and poor service: Travellers shocked at Hong Kong’s quarantine hotels

When Lau Kai Ching decided to come to Hong Kong from Malaysia, she found she had limited options in choosing a quarantine hotel. “I found that there were few designated hotels and most of them were full, especially those which were highly recommended by users on social media,” she said. “So I had to choose one called Ramada Harbour View.” Once she arrived in September, things were not what she expected. “The most bothersome thing is that, in the toilet, the pipe doesn’t work very well and the water gets clogged very quickly. I asked some people to fix it but the staff from the hotel said that they had no permission to enter the room of the traveller who was in quarantine,” she said.  Lau said she wanted to change rooms but it required permission from the Department of Health. “Then I made a phone call to the department and the operator told me he had received the report and would arrange it as soon as possible,” she said. She said she received no reply after that. “Fortunately, after three days, the blockage of the water pipe eased a little. It could barely work but the water flow was so slow that it took a long time to wash,” she said. In Hong Kong, all inbound arrivals from outside of mainland China and Macau are required to quarantine in government-designated hotels that must be booked before boarding the plane.  In September, 92,398 people arrived in Hong Kong, ccording to the website of the immigration department. Those from “high-risk” countries, such as the US, the UK and much of Europe, are required to undergo a 21-day quarantine and should be vaccinated.  They are also required to undergo six compulsory tests during the period followed by a week of self-monitoring. Currently, …

Society

Policy Address 2021: No cork to medical brain drain; Carrie Lam's last policy address doesn't meet hopes of healthcare personnel

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Clarice Wu、Jayde Cheung、Hamish CHANEdited by: Sara Cheng、TUNG Yi Wun
  • 2021-10-06

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor 's latest policy address barely covered medical brain drain, as more doctors and nurses leave public hospitals because of poor workplace conditions and low salaries or emigrate. “I don’t have much expectation on the policy address,” said Chung Pak-chi, 20, a third-year medical student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, adding most of her peers did not want to practice locally due to intense workload and low salary. Since July 2020, the turnover rate for full-time doctors in public hospitals has reached 4.9%, said Hospital Authority Chairman Henry Fan Hung-ling in August, and 6.7% for nurses, a 0.9% increase from 2019. Emigration contributed to staff loss, Fan said, and the situation is “concerning.” Private hospitals also poach talents from the public sector, worsening the situation there, he added. Gloria Law, 25, a nurse with three-years experience in a public hospital, said the workload she endured was “intense and heavy,” adding that each nurse had to take care of 12 patients at one time. A pay freeze announced by the Civil Service Bureau in June further widened the salary gap between nurses in the private and public sectors, Law said. Her salary after three years in a public hospital is less than what a nurse in the private sector makes in the first year. “The salary is not appealing enough as well,” she said. Despite these challenges, Lam highlighted government healthcare policies in her address, describing them as “multi‑pronged,” but stopped short of laying out new concrete measures. In September, the Hospital Authority extended retirement from 60 to 65 and created promotions for nurses to pursue specialisation. In August, the government proposed amendments to the Medical Registration Bill to allow non-locally trained doctors - regardless of their Hong Kong permanent residence status …

Society

Quarantine rooms for domestic helpers snapped up in minutes

The booking system for foreign domestic helpers at Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre on Lantau Island reopens today, following a halt since Sept. 19. The 1,000 rooms on offer were fully booked up in minutes.  Reservations for Oct. 22 to 28 provide 350 quotas for foreign domestic helpers to undergo quarantine. Phailin Leesirichaikul, a Thai missionary living in Hong Kong said that by the time she had gone through a series of steps to get to the booking page, all the quotas had already been taken. “Within three to five minutes after the system opened up, all of the rooms were fully booked, which made me anxious because the visa of my Indonesian helper is about to expire, but I cannot book a quarantine room for her,” she said. In order to arrange foreign domestic helpers to come to Hong Kong in a gradual and orderly manner and to guard against imported Covid-19 cases, Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre will continue to receive at most 50 helpers each day, according to a government press release.  The centre will provide an additional 200 units from Oct. 22, that’s a total of 1,000 units for inbound foreign domestic workers. Employers and employment agencies can make bookings from 9 a.m every Monday for the following week. According to government figures, as of Oct. 1, among the 6,060 Filipino foreign domestic helpers who arrived in Hong Kong between Aug. 30 and Sept. 24, there were 26 confirmed Covid cases. That’s a rate of 4.3%.  Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, said in his blog post yesterday that such a rate should be taken seriously.  “On a daily basis, we will check the epidemic situation of foreign domestic helpers in their countries of origin, the diagnosis of workers upon arrival, and the operation and booking of …

Society

China's online fitness boom amid the pandemic

As the coronavirus lingers across the world, people are finding ways to keep fit despite being stuck at home. All over China, downloading fitness apps and videos has become a trend. Here’s Kate Zhang to tell us more.

Health & Environment

Online shopping creates excessive packaging waste, Green Sense says

Online shopping over the past year is estimated to have produced around 800 million pieces of packaging waste in Hong Kong, according to a local environmental protection group, Green Sense. On average, 2.32 pieces and 2.71 kinds of wrappers were used for each item, with some using up to nine kinds of packaging materials, such as cartons, sticky tapes, bubble wrap, and craft paper, Green Sense has found. Ma Ka-po, senior project officer of Green Sense, said at a news conference today that too many kinds of packing materials make it hard for consumers to figure out which ones can be recycled.   Excessive use of sticky tapes, she pointed out, is a common problem. “The tapes are usually used to secure the flaps of cartons, but we found some cartons with sticky tapes all over them, even covering unnecessary parts,” Ms. Ma said.   Of 209 people Green Sense interviewed this year, only 35% thought that Hong Kong has a serious or very serious problem of excess packaging. Last year, 51% said it was a problem. The research also found that only about 46% of the interviewees would recycle packaging materials such as paper and cartons, after receiving the package, but 43% of them would simply throw them away. He Songlan, a university student, shops online three or four times a week, but she doesn’t see packaging waste as a problem. “When I buy clothes online, there may be one or two plastic bags and bubble wraps in the package, and when I buy snacks, there may be one carton and some plastic bags,” she said. She admitted though that the delivery companies may add a lot of packaging. “But it is acceptable for me,” she added. Kor Mi-jing, a student who shops online occasionally, tends to keep the …

Society

Cooking During the Pandemic

COVID-19 has not gone away, social distancing measures remain in place. Some people are finding new ways to share food with their friends. Bruce Zhao and Nick Yang report on how some people have taken up cooking as a new hobby.