In Hong Kong, no health workers or care home residents have caught coronavirus

Jeremy Hunt said the achievement was "striking".

Not a single healthcare worker or care home resident has been infected with coronavirus in Hong Kong, the UK parliament’s health committee has been told.

Professor Terry Lum, head of social work at Hong Kong University said that no health care workers have been infected in Hong Kong and there have been no infections in care homes either.

Health and Social Care commitee chair Jeremy Hunt described these figures as “striking”.

In contrast, over 100 healthcare workers have died in the UK and far more have caught the virus. And more than 11,000 people have died in care homes in the UK, 2,000 of whom died in just one week.

Hunt asked Lum how Hong Kong had done this, despite sharing a border with China where the outbreak started.

Lum said that the most important thing Hong Kong did was to stop the transmission of the virus from hospitals to care homes.

The UK has continued to send patients with coronavirus from hospital to care homes. It only committed to testing patients for coronavirus before discharging them on 15 April.

The government also did not advise against visits to care homes until 21 March. This was two weeks after criticism from the head of Care England and after several private care providers unilaterally decided to ban visits.

Lum also said Hong Kong had isolated anyone with coronavirus and anyone they had been in contact with in a quarantine centre for 14 days. While in this centre, they were tested regularly.

Lum said Hong Kong had learned its lessons from the SARS outbreak and made each care home have one person, usually a nurse, to be trained in infection control. This person ensures the care home staff follow government guidelines.

Care home staff have also held annual drills in infection control during the flu season. So staff are well practiced in containing infections, Lum said.

Care home operators in Hong Kong also started preparing for an outbreak earlier than their British counterparts.

They started making staff wear face masks in late January even though at that stage there had been no cases of coronavirus in Hong Kong.

This was possible, Lum said, because care homes usually have between one and three months stock of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In the UK, care home staff have complained about a lack of PPE and the relatives of care home workers have blamed shortages for their deaths.

Care homes in Hong Kong stopped all outside visits in early February. In the UK, this didn’t happen until 24 March when dozens of care home residents had already died of covid-19.

Lum also said contact tracing is important and that Hong Kong’s people were very cautious about coronavirus. Lum said he personally takes off his clothes and washes his hands as soon as he enters his home.

In total, Hong Kong has had around 1,000 coronavirus cases and four deaths. The UK has had 246,000 cases and nearly 35,000 deaths.

Joe Lo is a co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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