Hong Kong shows no need for total lockdown: study

Updated: 19 April, 2020 08:18 IST | Agencies | Hong Kong

The semi-autonomous country followed WHO protocol and embarked on a rigorous programme of testing, contact tracing, border control and social distancing

A passenger boards a shuttle bus after leaving a temporary COVID-19 testing centre set up at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong. Pic/AFP
A passenger boards a shuttle bus after leaving a temporary COVID-19 testing centre set up at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong. Pic/AFP

With widespread testing, contact tracing and population behavioural changes, Hong Kong appears to have managed to contain the first wave of COVID-19 without resorting to drastic measures like complete lockdown which now threaten to damage economies of several countries around the world, say scientists in a Lancet study.

A combination of border entry restrictions, quarantine and isolation of cases and contacts, together with some degree of social distancing helped the city with a 7.5 million population avert a major COVID-19 outbreak up to March 31, said the study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

"By quickly implementing public health measures, Hong Kong has demonstrated that the virus transmission can be effectively contained without resorting to the highly disruptive complete lockdown," said professor Benjamin Cowling from the University of Hong Kong, who led the research.

"Other governments can learn from the success of Hong Kong. If these measures and population responses can be sustained, they could substantially lessen the impact."
The government also deployed measures to encourage social distancing including flexible working arrangements and school closures. Many large-scale events were also cancelled.

Further analyses suggest that individual behaviours have changed in response to COVID-19. In the most recent survey, 85 per cent of respondents reported avoiding crowded places, and 99 per cent reported wearing face masks when leaving homeā€”up from 75 per cent and 61 per cent respectively from the first survey in January.

S Korea virus cases fall below 20 in 2 months

SEOUL: South Korea reported 18 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, marking the lowest daily increase in about two months. The new cases brought the country's total infections to 10,653, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the first time since February 20 that the country's new infections came below 20. Over the past five days, the country reported fewer than 30 new patients per day. The number of South Korea's daily new cases reached a peak of 909 confirmed cases on February 29, but the country has since managed to flatten the curve.

Iran closer to containment

Iranian authorities have said that they were closer to the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic in most of the country, while Turkey was poised to overtake Iran as the hardest-hit country in the Middle East due to rapid growth of new cases. Iran on Friday reported 1,499 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 79,494, with 4,958 deaths. "Despite circumstances arising from sanctions and economic warfare, no patient was left abandoned behind hospital doors and no patient lacked drugs and medical care during the peak of the virus across cities," minister of health and medical education Saeed Namaki said. In Turkey, 4,353 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Friday, bringing the total number to 78,546. The death toll surged to 1,769, after 126 more deaths were reported.

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First Published: 19 April, 2020 07:43 IST

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