Hong Kong Y Macau have recently introduced new pandemic measures to stop a new wave of Covid-19 by extending the controversial China’s “zero COVID” policy in the cities.
Macau imposed a citywide lockdown on July 11, placing more than 20,000 residents under mandatory quarantine. Casinos and other businesses in the city have suspended operations, while residents are unable to leave their homes beyond essential activities like grocery shopping.
On July 16, the Macau authorities announced the extension of the lockdown until July 22. While more than 90% of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated, authorities still decided to impose a strict lockdown to contain the highly transmissible omicron variant of Covid-19.
Macau, a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, has built makeshift hospitals. More than 500 Chinese medical personnel have arrived in the city to help health officials contain the number of infections.
Hong Kong introduces electronic wristbands and health codes
In Hong Kong, authorities introduced electronic bracelets and health codes to contain the spread of the omicron. On Monday, Hong Kong reported 3,436 new cases of Covid-19, with health officials describing the rising number of hospitalized patients as “worrying”.
Wristbands are mandatory for people who are quarantined at home after testing positive for Covid-19. Hong Kong Health Secretary Chung-Mau Lo said the move will ensure home isolation is carried out more accurately.
According to the authorities, people in home isolation must activate the bracelet at the beginning of their quarantine. During the isolation period, the app will analyze the communication signals in your neighborhood. Any change in signs that leads officials to believe that someone may have left their place of isolation may result in a warning or arrest.
In addition to the bracelet, the authorities also contemplate introducing a health code system similar to the one implemented in China. The objective is to restrict the movement of people who have been infected by Covid-19 and those who arrive from abroad. According to the city’s health secretary, the system would require real name registration, and anyone who tests positive would be given a red code as a way to identify them.
How effective are these measures?
While authorities insist the new measures will ensure lockdown compliance and slow the spread of the pandemic, some experts in Hong Kong believe these measures will have minimal effect in reducing transmission.
“There is a possibility that (the bracelet) could slightly reduce transmissions, but I don’t think it will have a big impact,” Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health, told DW.
The timing of when the wristband should be worn is unclear, leading Cowling to suggest that if infected people only start wearing them three days after contracting Covid-19, the virus may have already spread to other people. .
“What we understand from Covid-19 is that most transmission occurs between infected people when their symptoms start to show and when they first test positive,” he said. “If the bracelet arrives faster, it might have a small impact, but to what extent that affects the transmission, I don’t know.
“For the health code, we will have to see how it is implemented, because I think we are still waiting for some details,” he added.
Concerns about privacy and data surveillance
Other analysts have raised concerns about the health code’s privacy issue. “If they are implementing a health code, they will have to collect more personal data than they are currently collecting with the LeaveHomeSafe app,” said Chung-Ching Kwong, Hong Kong campaign coordinator for the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.
“There are already a lot of controversies around security and encryption when it comes to the LeaveHomeSafe app, so it’s not convincing that they can step up their security game when they increase the amount of personal data they plan to collect,” he said. DW.
In addition to data privacy concerns, Kwong said there is a possibility the health code could become a tool for authorities to conduct surveillance or censorship, citing examples from China’s Henan province, where hundreds of Bank depositors were unable to join a planned protest after their health codes. Turn red.
“Would this also happen in Hong Kong? There is no way for Hong Kongers to find out and make sure this doesn’t happen here,” he added.
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Will Hong Kong be reopened to the world?
Although the Hong Kong authorities have mentioned the possibility of gradually relaxing strict border controls, they have not given a definite timeframe.
As we mentioned in AmericanPost.NewsEarlier this month, Hong Kong Health Secretary Chung-Mau Lo said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the city could allow quarantine-free arrivals for November, but only under certain conditions.
Cowling said the new strict measures are not consistent with these statements, and Kwong believes the Hong Kong government is “doing exactly what Beijing wants it to do.”
“The current (Covid) policy in Hong Kong is more of a political consideration to show how loyal they are to Beijing when it comes to dealing with the pandemic,” he said. “In the past, Hong Kong officials still had their own considerations and agenda, but right now they are doing what Beijing wants them to do.”
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