The Association of Hong Kong Professionals (AHKP) has put forward two recommendations on how the HKSAR government should introduce innovative measures to effectively handle current virus outbreak, so that Hong Kong can reach a target of zero community infection numbers as soon as possible.
The first recommendation is a smart vent protector (SVP), which will aim to improve current ventilating pipe systems and achieve sustainable public health safety, setting new standards for building safety and alleviating concerns voiced by the public regarding exhaust pipes.
The second recommendation is the establishment of a long-term wastewater monitoring system to detect community infections at the source, and effectively curb local outbreaks.
According to the AHKP, it is necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in buildings and communities in Hong Kong by stopping it at the source. Establishing a long-term wastewater monitoring system to detect any new coronavirus in housing estates, nursing homes, hotels and similar buildings in Hong Kong can further prevent any spread. With reference to research reports by teams from different countries in recent months, it is apparent that wastewater monitoring in communities is an effective tool for identifying transmission routes. Some cities have already set up dashboards to display the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater.
The recommendations of AHKP include the use of the test results and scientific analysis of the virus in wastewater to assess infection trends in specific communities. This will help improve existing clinical and laboratory monitoring data, and concentrate resources for more effective usage; buildings and communities can also carry out better environmental management.
Furthermore, AHKP recommends that government introduce policies that support, organise and train professionals in various related industries, including registered laboratories with qualifications to collect environmental samples of any coronavirus, property management officers, building services engineers, and building surveyors, etc., to assist in taking samples in a standardised manner from underground drain pipes and manholes related to a building’s underground drainage system. The samples collected then can be sent to a registered laboratory for analysis.
By doing so, the Centre for Health Protection can immediately receive the relevant reports for systematic assessment and justify their decision for a regional compulsory testing plan with other pandemic prevention measures. This can be one of the effective monitoring measures to help stopping the spread of COVID-19 to achieve the goal of virus elimination as well as provide more job opportunities.
Dr Pong Chiu Fai, Executive Vice Chairman of AHKP, said, “Establishing a long-term wastewater monitoring system to detect any coronavirus not only can detect outbreaks, but also fight a pandemic effectively. Under a severe pandemic situation, the best way to cut off all invisible transmission chains is to implement drastic measures such mandatory testing and reducing the mobility of citizens. Their livelihood can only be restored if cases are eliminated as soon as possible, and this will lead Hong Kong out of the current situation”.
Mr Samson Wong, Chairman of AHKP, believes that the traditional contingency plans for dealing with infectious diseases does not seem to be applicable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mainland could manage to have close monitoring the situation, and cities locked down under certain circumstances, so that a large number of tests for the virus can be organised to suppress the pandemic.
However, Mr Wong also commented that although the SAR Government has not been able to follow the same approach in full due to differences in the social system, it should arrange adequate resources in a timely manner and choose strict principles of epidemic prevention and more surveillance methods to continuously innovate measures to deal with the pandemic. Everyone should carry on with the basic goal of eliminating all cases because, once measures are relaxed, the situation may rebound and become more severe again. Further resources will then have to be used to fight the disease and recovery will be delayed.