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Quarantine helps stop virus spread

The Centre for Health Protection today said arranging a 21-day compulsory quarantine for asymptomatic residents of buildings with reported cases of the COVID-19 mutant strain is essential to stop the virus from spreading in the community.   The centre elaborated further on the arrangements in response to the community's concerns over the requirement for close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 local cases with the N501Y mutant strain or other variants of concern (VOC) to undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days.   It said in view of the local VOC cases with unknown sources of infection, the Government has to adopt swift and stringent testing and quarantine measures to cut the transmission chains as soon as possible, adding that the quarantine arrangement is based on risk assessment, the prevailing COVID-19 epidemiology and the circumstances of each individual case.   As the local cases with the N501Y and E484K mutations were detected in the building, in view of the higher transmissibility, the centre considered that the residents of all units on all floors of the buildings concerned could have been exposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19 through sharing of common facilities within the building.   The centre noted that it is imperative to carry out prudent infection control and prevention measures. Arranging compulsory quarantine for 21 days for asymptomatic residents under the Prevention & Control of Disease Regulation would be essential to stop the potential risk of spread of the mutant strain into the community.   According to the latest epidemiological information, COVID-19 infection might have a prolonged incubation period and some VOC cases involving inbound travellers were detected only towards the end of their 21-day quarantine period.   The centre considered that those VOC-related close contacts who have tested negative in the early phase after exposure might still be incubating the disease.   They need to be put under quarantine for 21 days since their last exposure to the case or last stay in the affected building with cases. For those who tested positive, they would be admitted to hospitals for further management.   The centre explained there is 24-hour on-site medical support at quarantine centres, allowing better medical care to close contacts. The healthcare professionals can provide medical surveillance and primary medical care for them. Quarantine at a quarantine centre also protects both the those under quarantine and the community at large.   For the evacuation of Caribbean Coast, Block 11, a total of 1,027 residents were arranged for admission to quarantine centres and the Government managed to transfer almost all of them within 24 hours.   The centre pointed out that being the largest evacuation operation during this epidemic, there would be huge challenges regarding the transfer and the arrangement of accommodation for the residents.   It has been working closely with the Civil Aid Service, the Auxiliary Medical Service and the Social Welfare Department to ensure daily necessities could be delivered to the close contacts in the quarantine centres in time.   Regarding the quarantine arrangement for those who are vaccinated, the centre's Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the Scientific Committee on Emerging & Zoonotic Diseases, joined by the Chief Executive's expert advisory panel, during the meeting on April 22 discussed the possibility of exempting close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases from the existing quarantine measures, if they are fully vaccinated.   Due to limited data and concerns about emerging COVID-19 variants, they considered that the current quarantine practice on close contacts should continue until more supporting evidence becomes available.   In view of the threat posed by the mutant strain, the centre called on the public for understanding and co-operation with all the infection control and prevention arrangements as well as anti-epidemic measures.
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