Health & Environment

Health & Environment

More than 60,000 sign up for Sinovac jabs

Online registration for Hong Kong’s first round of Covid vaccination began at midnight last night. But the waiting time exceeded 50 minutes soon after the start. By morning, the waiting time was still about 30 minutes. Some of those who tried to sign up complained that they encountered up to 521 errors on the website. Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Alfred Sit Wing-hang said in an interview on RTHK that the demand exceeded the capacity of the government’s registration system, but the glitch was fixed within an hour. By noon, at least 60,000 people had signed up. To register, the system will first ask for an identity card number. The first inoculation is available from 26 February, followed by a second jab 28 days later. Registrants can choose between five Community Vaccination Centres and 18 general out-patient clinics under the Hospital Authority. But by noon, most of the slots had been taken. The earliest available slots are not till the end of next week. Five priority groups can make appointments online to get the vaccine. They include healthcare staff, persons aged 60 years or above, staff of residential care homes, essential public service workers, and personnel involved in cross border transportation. Reservations can be made at www.covidvaccine.gov.hk.Elderly people may bring up to two carers to receive the vaccine at the same time. Only the Sinovac vaccine will be available for the first round. Private clinics participating in the inoculation programme are expected to start providing the jabs by mid-March. On Feb 22 Monday, Hong Kong‘s leader Carrie Lam was the first person to receive China’s Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine in a bid to improve public confidence in the mainland-developed vaccine. The Executive Council on Tuesday passed that starting from Wednesday, social gathering restrictions will be relaxed to allow up to four …

Society

Privacy concerns drive people away from evening dine-in

Despite relaxed social distancing rules and resumed dinner service, some Hongkongers still won’t eat out over the fear of personal data collected by the authority as the government requires all diners to record their detailed information for potential virus tracing. Eateries can resume dine-in service until 10pm with a maximum four people per table from Thursday, as long as they fulfill prerequisites, including staff getting Covid-19 tests every two weeks and diners recording personal information by scanning a QR code through the official “Leave Home Safe” app or by other means. The government’s controversial contact-tracing app has raised public concerns over privacy issues and abuse of data, as it will access user phone storage. Despite some online calls for boycotting the app, as of Thursday, the app download has surged to over 1 million since its launch in mid-November and seized the top position in the App Store.  “I see no reason for customers leaving personal information when eating out,” said restaurant operator Ryan Lo Tsz-yeung. “Our restaurants also have no right to ask for diners’ information.” Health officials have said on separate occasions that the virus-exposure app will only let the government know “who was present at the venues at a specific time” for potential tracing, while the encrypted data will only be stored in user phones for 31 days. Hong Kong Baptist University’s “BU-Trace,” launched last October and led by Xu Jianliang, Associate Head of the Department of Computer Science, is an alternative to the official app, Prof Xu said. “People can use other apps to check whether their information has been transferred to servers if they are skeptical of the government,” Prof Xu said.  Prof Xu also said the government could make their app open source, meaning publishing the software code for people to inspect the operating …

Health & Environment

Air-frying food at high temperatures creates carcinogenic risk, Consumer Council says

Air fryers, which sell themselves as a healthier alternative to deep fryers, “pose different risks,” the city’s Consumer Council said in an online press conference today. The watchdog tested the electrical safety and performance of 12 air fryer models and found that half posed various safety hazards to consumers, including creating a potentially carcinogenic compound. “For air fried food, consumers should take it in moderation and not lower their guard simply because air-frying is deemed to be a healthier cooking method,” said Nora Tam Fung-Yee, chairman of the Research and Testing Committee of the Consumer Council. Foods containing abundant amounts of asparagine, a type of free amino acid found in foods such as potatoes, are more likely to produce acrylamide, a human carcinogen the council said, when cooked at high temperatures.  The content of acrylamide in french fries that were cooked in the 12 different air fryers ranged from 102 to 7,038 micrograms per kilogram, six of which exceeded the EU suggestion of 500 micrograms per kilogram. The air fryers are from brands Proluxury, Denki, Midea, Imarflex, ecHome and TSK.  According to the instructions or recipes provided by the brands. One model, Imarflex, exceeded the benchmark by 13 times, said Ms Tam. When the fries were cooked at lower frying times or cooking temperatures, the levels of acrylamide fell to levels consistent with the EU’s suggested amount . The council also found issues with excessive temperature, insufficient insulation and inadequate earthing terminal. The Consumer Council provided four tips for using air fryers safely. Avoid sharing a power outlet with other electrical appliances that have high power consumption Do not exceed the maximum capacity of the air fryer and do not densely pack food to avoid undercooking Do not cover the air outlet when the air fryer is in operation to …

Society

Social distancing measures to relax on Thursday as COVID-19 cases fall

Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan Shiu-chee announced today that social distancing measures will ease from Feb. 18. Hong Kong recorded nine new cases of Covid-19 today, the second consecutive day in the single digits. Prof. Chan said that in view of the low number of COVID-19 cases, catering businesses can provide dine-in services until 10 pm and the maximum capacity per table will be increased from two to four people. Some businesses such as sports facilities, gyms, beauty parlours, cinemas, and game centres can also be reopened for business until 10 pm, provided that their staff undergo virus testing every 14 days. “Owners and staff should undergo the first virus testing between Feb. 11 to Feb. 25,” added Prof. Chan. People entering these premises are required to scan the QR codes using the Leave Home Safe app or register their personal information along with visiting date and time to record their whereabouts.  Prof. Chan warned that if restaurants and other premises do not comply with the requirements, their opening hours for dine-in services will be shortened to 6 pm and the number of people per table will again be restricted to two people. They may also be subject to temporary closure of between 3-14 days. Meanwhile, bars, nightclubs, bathhouses, party rooms, mahjong parlours, swimming pools and karaoke establishments will remain closed. 

Health & Environment

Hong Kong government’s plan to exempt foreign doctors from licensing exams endangers medical safety, local health practitioners say

The government's proposal to exempt foreign-trained doctors from local licensing examinations will jeopardize the health of Hongkongers, the Hong Kong Medical Association said in a press conference today. The government’s proposal is an attempt to alleviate long waiting times in public hospitals. On Feb. 4, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed an amendment to the Medical Registration Ordinance that would allow Hong Kong permanent residents who have graduated from an accredited overseas medical school and worked in a Hong Kong public health institution for at least five years to be exempted from the examination required to become registered doctors in Hong Kong. “The purpose of the Medical Council of Hong Kong's professional qualification examination for doctors is to ensure the quality of doctors,” said Dr David Fang Jin-sheng, the former president of HKMA, which includes more than 8,000 local medical practitioners. Dr Choi Kin, the president of HKMA, said that the examination not only treats all doctors from outside Hong Kong fairly but also ensures that all doctors practicing in Hong Kong meet their standards. Waiting times for specialists in the public system range from two months to nearly three years, according to Hospital Authority statistics. The government's plan to address the shortage of doctors in the public sector was not the right solution to the problem, the HKMA said. To make full use of the existing medical staff, the HKMA said that the government should allocate additional funds for hiring nurses, support staff and additional medical facilities such as hospital beds and operating rooms. With the increasing number of medical students in recent years, there will be about 510 local medical graduates this year, a 13.3% rise from 450 last year, according to HKMA. “Most of the graduates last year went on to work in public hospitals,” said …

Health & Environment

Covid vaccine advisory panel to consider Sinovac data before peer review

A health expert on the government’s COVID-19 advisory panel denied on Monday that the mainland’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine is being exempted from peer review. Professor David Hui Shu-cheong stressed that the vaccine will not be approved for public use before the data is published in a medical journal.  “We are just trying to have an earlier meeting based on information that they provided to the World Health Organization or to the China National Medical Products Administration so that we can actually have some data to work on,” said Professor Hui, a respiratory medicine expert from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The government announced last Friday that it would consider whether Sinovac should be approved for use in Hong Kong based on Phase 3 clinical data the company submitted to the World Health Organization. Sinovac said earlier that it was having difficulties compiling the relevant information for publication in a short period of time, according to a government press release. Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee denied yesterday that the government was  lowering its standards with the exemption. He explained that the publication process typically takes two to three months, including a lengthy peer review process where the manufacturer has to answer all questions presented by its external referees.  “Eventually they will be able to publish,” Professor Hui said. “But we don’t want to wait for two to three months doing nothing.” The government ordered 7.5 million doses of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine in December 2020. Delivery was expected in January, but was delayed because the advisory panel was awaiting for more clinical information. Sinovac has provided the Department of Health with its Phases 1 and 2 clinical data, based on studies in Brazil and Turkey. The Phase 3 clinical data has been submitted to the World Health …

Health & Environment

Wai Lee Building in Quarry Bay with two infections, in lockdown

Wai Lee Building in Quarry Bay was locked down for mandatory COVID-19 testing in the evening.  The 23-storey building with 430 units was the second of three buildings to be locked down on Sunday, including Hoi Fu Court in Mongkok and Cheong Lok Mansions in Hung Hom.  Police officers and medical personnel arrived at the Wai Lee Building today at 7:30pm, and enforced the lockdown. A gate and several booths were placed outside the building. Every entrant had to be registered.  “Two infections were confirmed last night,” said Cheung Kwok-kwan, a district councilor assistant. “We expected this to happen.” According to  government statistics, both infected individuals are local residents. One was a 54-year-old male whose symptoms started on Feb 3 and was confirmed to have been infected on Feb 6  His case is epidemiologically related to a local case.  Another infection was a 18-year-old male who started to have signs of coronavirus on Feb 2. His infection was also confirmed on Feb 6.  “The residents wanted to have the mandatory testing,” said Annie Lee Ching-har, a district councilor. “After knowing that there are two infections in the building, they think it is best to have everyone tested in order to ensure the safety of themselves, their families and neighbor.” Both Mr Cheung and Ms Lee said, residents were expecting the lockdown to happen either today or tomorrow.  Given previous lockdowns, Wai Lee Building was expected to reopen at around 7am tomorrow, said Ms Lee. Residents would be able to go to work if the lockdown is lifted between 6 to 7am.  “I don’t think I can go to work on time tomorrow,” said Leung Fai-wing, a resident of Wai Lee Building. “I don’t know when my turn to get tested and no one could guarantee when the lockdown will end.” …

Health & Environment

Carrie Lam and government officials visit lockdown area Sham Shui Po on second day of ambush style lockdown

The government announced several more ambush-style lockdowns in Sham Shui Po, Jordan and Tin Shui Wai shortly after 7pm on Tuesday night. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary for Food and Health Sophie Chan Siu-chee and Secretary for home affairs Tsui Ying Wai visited the lockdown area in Sham Shui Po at 11pm on Tuesday night. Carrie Lam left shortly after taking to staff in testing tents and several citizens. A large number of police officers standby in the lockdown area.  17 blocks on Ki Lung Street, Nam Cheong Road, Tai Nan Street and Pei Ho Street are covered in Sham Shui Po lockdown. The testing is expected to finish by 7am Wednesday morning. Citizens are demanded to stay in until their testing results show negative for COVID-19. Ambush style lockdowns have taken citizens by surprise the last two days.  Several teenage girls were taking a tutorial class while the government announced the lockdown in Sham Shui Po, according to Apple Daily. The girls were let go after doing a COVID-19 test.  “We were racing out of the lockdown area when they sealed off the area,” Macy Leung, a housewife who lives in Sham Shui Po said. She added that the ambush-style lockdown was disturbing and she highly doubts its efficiency.  Mr Cheung Kin-chung, Chief secretary for Administration said on Monday that multiple sudden lockdowns will take place until Feb 11 ahead of Lunar New Year.

Health & Environment

Government continues to surprise residents with sudden lockdowns

Hong Kong’s ambush-style lockdown takes residents of Ho Choi Building on 42-58A On Hing Street in Yuen Long by surprise when police and health officials surrounded the building at 7 pm. Residents of the building are subject to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing.  A 51-year-old man residing in Ho Choi building was confirmed to have COVID-19 on 30 Jan. He belongs to the airport runway site cluster, according to the Centre for Health Protection.  “It’s unexpected but necessary,” said Karen Leung, 30, who lives in Ma Tin Road across from Ho Choi building.  The Centre for Health Protection has confirmed 34 additional Covid-19 cases amongst which, five are imported, taking Hong Kong’s total of COVID-19 cases to 10,452.  “We will intensify our operations, the so-called lockdown, targeted operations every day until February 10” said Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung at a press conference this afternoon. Meanwhile, the Centre for Health Protection continues to urge the public to maintain personal hygiene and avoid social gatherings.   

Health & Environment

COVID-19 lockdown in Majestic House, Tsim Sha Tsui

Another ambush-style lockdown is being implemented at Majestic House, 80 Nathan Road at the junction with Cameron Road in Tsim Sha Tsui on Monday evening. Large groups of police officers and medical workers have cordoned off the area while getting passers-by to leave the area. A 50-year-old man in Majestic House was confirmed to have COVID on 30 Jan, according to the Centre for Health Protection. Majestic House was first occupied in 1963 and has over 60 apartments. It is one of several residential blocks where people are subject to mandatory COVID-19 testing Monday evening. Other buildings include number 42-58A, On Hing Street in Yuen Long and Loong King Building on Ma Tau Wai Road in Hung Hom, according to the Food and Health Bureau. The Centre for Health Protection reported 34 new cases of COVID-19 in Hong Kong today. This comes after multiple lockdowns in Yau Tsim Mong district over the past week. There has been a visible cluster of growing cases in Tsim Sha Tsui over the past 14 days, according to the Centre for Health Protection website.