Cautious approach best against virus

As daily Covid-19 infections appear on the decline, the government has been bombarded with advice on the way forward. This includes relaxing restrictions on -sit-down meals and speeding up the resumption of cross-border travel. Meanwhile, there seems to be greater misunderstanding and scepticism about the upcoming universal testing scheme, compounded by misguided calls for a health code system that further opens the way to shopping and entertainment rather than combat the virus. Such demands are perhaps inevitable amid growing fatigue and suffering across society. But as the city reported another 78 confirmed and preliminary cases yesterday, the third wave of outbreaks is far from over. Officials must carefully assess each step to avoid a resurgence.
As clarified by the government, the free voluntary tests are to help identify asymptomatic sufferers in the community rather than certify Hong Kong as a city clear of the virus. Similarly, the much-touted health code system is aimed at easing cross-border travel rather than reviving domestic economic activities.
Regrettably, some of the public have failed to grasp the concept, and they have called for a system that gives those who test negative unrestricted access to shopping centres, restaurants and entertainment venues. While a similar scheme is in place on the mainland, experts have swiftly dismissed the proposal as unfair and one that gives a false sense of security. As not everyone is expected to undergo the test and negative results are no guarantee against future infection, such a scheme would encourage crowds to gather and undo all the good work that has been done.
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The government is reportedly inviting tenders to develop an app for voluntary use to help trace those in contact with coronavirus sufferers. This will involve users having their whereabouts registered so those who have visited infected sites may be identified for follow-up action. The idea is worthy of consideration. But as with the universal testing scheme, there needs to be strict privacy protection.
The battle ahead may well be plagued by more rumours and misconceptions. However, every step must be carefully thought through to avoid the situation from worsening.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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