OHKF Insight Forum Series
Professor E.K. Yeoh Shares Expert Views On Containing Covid-19
and Strategies That Require Whole-Of-Society Collaboration
to Achieve a New Normalcy
(4 May 2020, Hong Kong) The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage in many countries with now more than 3 million confirmed cases and over 200,000 deaths worldwide. The pandemic is at different stages in different countries and the conditions for elimination of the coronavirus are not apparent. Experts have projected the potential of this pandemic becoming endemic and the resurgence of the contagion possible as late as 2024. As populations anticipate the return to life as it was, the critical question is what new normalcy is required to prevent resurgence of Covid-19? In the first session of its new ‘Insight Forum’ series that invites heavyweight experts to speak on a range of pressing societal issues, today Our Hong Kong Foundation (OHKF) has invited Professor Eng-kiong Yeoh, Director of Centre for Health Systems and Policy Research, JC School of Public Health and Primary Care at Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a renowned public health expert, to share his views on the when, how and what normalcy could be institutionalised in Hong Kong amid the continuing Covid-19 threat.
An Urgent Need for Risk-Assessed and Risk-Mitigated Strategies in Moving Towards a New Normalcy
In today’s live webinar, Professor Yeoh warned that business will no longer be as usual and pointed out the urgent need for well thought-out risk-assessed and risk-mitigated strategies to meet all possible contingencies of the global public health crisis. As the world shifts focus from control of Covid-19 risks to exit strategies for physical distancing and mitigation of socioeconomic impact, infection prevention and control must be integrated into businesses and social lives. Professor Yeoh highlighted that some of the measures which are perceived to be time-limited could indeed become new norms, including personal protective measures like hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and enablers of a Covid-19-free environment like sanitation and ventilation.
Achieving a ‘Covid-19-Contained’ Hong Kong through Multi-sectoral Collaboration
Professor Yeoh highlighted that countering the potential resurgence of Covid-19 should be everyone’s business. He emphasised the importance of a whole-of-society effort and collaboration between all sectors: the Government, business sector and the civil society in aspiring for a ‘Covid-19-free’ and achieving a ‘Covid-19-contained’ Hong Kong. Creative strategies need to be devised and adopted in moving the entire society closer towards establishing a ‘new normalcy’. As the Government leads efforts in reinforcing stringent health surveillance protocols to prevent re-entry of SARS-CoV-2 alongside case detection and contact tracing in enhancing preparedness for potential resurgence, businesses need to create safe and hygienic environments while the civil society adjusts in adopting sustainable physical distancing and personal protective measures.
Refraining from Complacency and Supporting the Vulnerable in Containing Covid-19
In talking about how the world and how Hong Kong have performed in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, Professor Yeoh acknowledged the exceptional effectiveness of intervention by the Hong Kong Government and the efforts of the community in containing Covid-19. He discussed border control measures which could be modified to minimise the reintroduction of Covid-19 when restrictions to entry are relaxed. He emphasised that we must refrain from complacency and remarked that the challenge now is how to prevent the potential reintroduction and resurgence of Covid-19 while easing restrictions to socioeconomic activities in a staged risk-planned and risk-managed strategy. Professor Yeoh stressed the importance of social responsibility along the route to recovery such that the disadvantaged and those most vulnerable in our society must not be left out.
Rising from the Covid-19 Challenge and Leveraging on Newfound Opportunities
On the role of the private sector in exit strategies, Professor Yeoh pointed to the opportunities the ‘new normal’ could bring for businesses and industries through new standards, services, models and products. Professor Yeoh envisaged that there would be opportunities arising from this crisis of vertical and horizontal integration of service lines, citing the example of where airline, travel, hotel and retail industries, together with the Government, could enable Covid-19-free experiences for visitors.
‘The battle against Covid-19 will be a long one, but we can achieve a new kind of normalcy for Hong Kong amidst efforts to contain and mitigate Covid-19. Multi-sectoral collaboration to seize the opportunities arising from the crisis which take advantage of sustainable creative measures and perseverance in compliance in a culture of physical distancing are key to moving towards a Covid-19-free Hong Kong’, Professor Yeoh said.
‘Containing COVID-19—When & What Normalcy will Return to Hong Kong?’