Hong Kong’s third wave of the coronavirus outbreak is at its most severe in the last few months, meaning that it should now ready itself for stringent protocols to avoid community spread in its efforts to fight the pandemic in the next two weeks.
Chief secretary Mathher Cheung-Kim-Chung, said that restrictions on business hours and resident movements will be imposed. However, a full stay-at-home lockdown was not an encouraging idea.
Hence, the country has now announced that crew change would not be allowed for vessels unless they performed cargo trade via Hong Kong. This has now closed all doors to what medical experts called a loophole and a possible source of imported COVID-19 cases, causing the 3rd wave.
The decision by the government has, however, raised the question of why the change has to wait until Wednesday to be enforced. Of the 128 new infections on Sunday, 26th July 2020, almost 25 cases were imported through seamen from Britain, Indonesia, Philippines, and other locations. Among the preliminary 100 tested positive, 3 patients were workers linked to the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse.
Crew change had previously occurred with no restrictions in local waters of Hong Kong, including vessels with no cargo operations. The leeway granted to about 10,000 seafarers exempted them from mandatory 14-day quarantine, said official figures. Their movement was however restricted to their ships, airport, and the accommodation.
Following the announcement, the crew members will now have to stay onboard while on Hong Kong waters. The incoming crew must possess certificates to show a negative result on COVID-19 tests to be allowed entrance into the city. The outgoing crew too have to remain onboard until point-to-point transportation is provided to avoid contact with the community.
The tightening of measures may have arrived a bit too late according to Dr.Joseph Tsang kay-yan, who is an infectious disease expert, saying that the delay of enforcement has a consequence which the Hongkongers are bearing.
A government spokesperson has explained the decision of the enforcement to be done on Wednesday as “wholesale cessation of exemption agreement will not be in the public interest” as some flights and vessels have already made arrangements to arrive in Hong Kong.