More on Hong Kong’s proposed Mainland-style Covid monitoring/control system…
Reporters … questioned why [Health Secretary] Lo thought the health code system would work in Hong Kong when it was unsuccessful in preventing Omicron outbreaks in Macau or Shanghai.
Lo answered that the proposal was based on the city’s existing Covid-19 situation: “By reducing the chance of them getting into the community, we would be able to reduce the transmission from our current level,” he added.
Hey – it sounds better than ‘I have no idea’. Although…
…leading microbiologist Ho Pak-Leung from the University of Hong Kong said in a separate Monday morning programme on Commercial Radio that he expected the effectiveness of the new health code system at preventing Covid-19 infections to be limited given the virus’ transmissibility and the tendency for contact-tracing measures to lag behind the spread.
A Standard editorial says…
Under the new administration, color-coded Covid monitoring will undoubtedly go ahead.
This is despite concerns that the introduction of such a system could accelerate Hongkongers emigrating and discourage foreigners of high-potential from returning here, which would further isolate the city from the rest of the world.
The conspiracy theory – on the verge of becoming mainstream in Hong Kong – is that that’s the whole point. It continues…
But there are also concerns that, unless Hong Kong adopts a color-coded health monitor, the mainland will not agree to reopen the border for normal travel.
Until and unless there’s a major shift in Beijing towards mitigation rather than suppression of Covid, the border will only ever fully reopen if/when Hong Kong is as sealed-off from the outside world as the Mainland itself is.
…Privacy might have been a concern when the previous administration first launched the LeaveHomeSafe app.
But, having used the app day in and day out, people have become used to living in the so-called new normal.
It can be expected that they will also get used to the new color-coded health monitor – unless they are prepared to withdraw from society and live a solitary existence.
The column goes on to ask:
‘If someone is given a yellow or red code, many people around them are likely to be flagged too. How will the decision be made? Will they be able to use public transport?’
There are a lot more questions. Won’t the heightened surveillance mechanism further increase people’s incentives to keep quiet if they test positive or show Covid symptoms? Will the new features work when your device is offline (as the current LeaveHomeSafe does)? Will the authorities start demanding universal testing? Why shouldn’t a government that jails people for kids’ books about sheep use the ‘red’ code to place dissidents under semi-house arrest? Will this app ever be scrapped, or will it become a standard ‘public health precaution’ in operation permanently? Will it then be merged with facial-recognition systems? Or extended to control access to bank accounts and other facilities?
Also from the editorial…
When John Lee Ka-chiu was still chief secretary, he reportedly demanded that then-Innovation and Technology Secretary Alfred Sit Wing-hang strengthen the app to include extra functions – but to no avail.