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Bags full of waste are piled up for disposal at the Tsing Yi community isolation facility on March 9. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

LettersInstead of number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong, focus on amount of waste created by pandemic measures

  • Readers discuss how Covid-prevention measures have contributed to Hong Kong being unable to meet a waste-reduction target set in 2013, and the urgency of the need to drop pandemic restrictions like the rest of the world
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Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau recently said the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the city should be “upsetting” us all. While I, of course, do not wish ill on anyone, I am upset about a related issue the government never highlights: the unfathomable amount of plastic waste Hong Kong’s approach to the pandemic has generated.

It may surprise some readers to learn of a 2013 document titled “ Blueprint for Sustainable Use of Resources” in which the government laid down the target of reducing per-capita municipal solid waste by 40 per cent from 2011’s 1.27kg levels to 0.8kg by this very year, 2022. Few would, however, be surprised to learn that we are likely to completely miss the target. This would have been the case regardless of the pandemic.

The intervening years saw the government standing idly by as our municipal solid waste disposal rate shot up year after year until 2018, when it peaked at 1.53kg. The figure stood at 1.44kg in 2020.

Having miserably failed, the government in 2021 came up with its “ Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035”, in which it rehashes a 40-45 per cent reduction target (from the 2020 figure of 1.44kg per person per day) over a 14-year period without specifying a clear target amount, while promoting a “plastic-free” lifestyle.
This while medical workers at outdoor stations don unnecessary full-body personal protective equipment, everyone must wear masks outdoors, “anti-epidemic kits” to every household come in plastic bags, and cleaning staff in full-body PPE regularly disinfect premises where an infected person has been, apparently still believing the long-debunked myth that infection can easily occur by surface transmission.
During the acute fifth wave in March this year, Hong Kong’s clinical waste rose 5.6 times compared to the same period in 2019, producing double the amount of waste the city’s only clinical waste incinerator was designed to handle.
If Covid-19 is shifting to being endemic, as Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, a government pandemic adviser, said in late June, then the focus should shift from absolute case numbers to the number of acute cases and deaths. According to Professor Hung, the death rate from Covid-19 since May has been similar to seasonal influenza.

So while I’d like to sympathise with Mr Lo’s plea, I’m becoming more upset about the legacy we’re leaving behind, and think we should stop obsessing about absolute number of cases and start focusing on the absolute amount of rubbish we are producing.

Rishi Kukreja, Ap Lei Chau

Hong Kong must end Covid-19 restrictions by November

There is only one thing now standing in the way of Hong Kong’s recovery, and it is not Covid-19, it is Hong Kong’s Covid-19 restrictions.

We have a very short window to get back to normal – a matter of months.

If Hong Kong is not completely open for the rugby sevens and financial summit that will be held in November, it would be dead as an international city, its reputation permanently ruined by a self-inflicted wound. Holding these events in an attempt to show that Hong Kong is “open for business” but then continuing with policies that show Hong Kong is most definitely not open for business, would be madness.
Does the government seriously expect that any tourist or sports fan is going to undergo expensive preflight PCR tests, the rigmarole at the airport, three days isolated in an expensive quarantine hotel, the stress of subsequently needing to change hotels, then four days in which they cannot go to a restaurant or bar, and daily RAT tests – all while wearing a mask which they no longer have to do in their own countries?

And for what, exactly, would potential visitors be going through all this hardship for? The inability to meet more than four of their friends? The chance to do more RAT tests before they can have a drink? And the forever dangling threat of forced isolation if one of these tests is positive?

What is the point of coming to Hong Kong while these ridiculous restrictions are in place? Not much point at all, not when there are better alternatives almost anywhere else.

What is the point of a quarantine policy that has no effect on the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong, which has been described as shifting to endemic by one of the government’s own advisers Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai? This adviser also said last week that Covid-19 now has a similar mortality rate to seasonal flu.

Enough is enough. The mask mandate, quarantine policy and the environment-killing constant testing with its enormous plastic waste have to be phased out starting now, and must be completely gone by November.

James Webster, Wan Chai