(Xinhua/Rouelle Umali)

OPINION – Complacency be gone

And here we are, in the most predictable outcome since the vaccination programme was initiated in February, the enemy is literally knocking at the gates and the local vaccination rate is still unnecessarily low.

The recent cases in the neighbouring Guangdong Province have indeed boosted the number of vaccination appointments, with residents now finally feeling something resembling actual risk, considering the number of people that regularly cross the border on a daily basis.

Still, after almost five months since the vaccination plan started only about 20 per cent of the local population has gotten at least one jab, with only 16 per cent being fully vaccinated.

Amazingly we are still 6th in Asia in terms of vaccine doses per 100 habitants, after Mainland China and Hong Kong, something that speaks more about the reduced number of countries in the region who currently have access to vaccines and how lucky the city is to have more than enough to take care of all its residents.

Local residents have let themselves fall into a bed of complacency, delaying the need to be inoculated for not realising its immediate need or out of health concerns that are more or less unfounded. Depending on each person’s health history of course.

The same residents that have refused to get the jab until now are the same ones that complain of the inconvenience caused by the new 48 hours requirement to cross the Guangdong border or the new health code requirements to enter public spaces.

It is my view that local authorities are – correctly – demonstrating to residents that such policies will continue until the necessary vaccination threshold is achieved. A kind of a ‘scared straight’ approach aimed at pushing people to get the appointment.

As expected the increased number of people wanting the jab will mean that the waiting period to actually get it will be longer.

Since a 14 days period is needed for the necessary second booster shot, even if suddenly all hesitant locals decided to get vaccinated it would take more than a month for full protection.

Until then god knows how the pandemic situation will evolve.

The recent developments also show how fickle any predictions of tourism and gaming sector recovery are in the current world. Optimistic predictions for strong Summer following the Labour Day Golden Week were completely shattered by an unpredictable outbreak in our main ‘feeder market’.

There will be no recovery until we have a strong layer of immunity and the city has to fully realise this.

It is good to see all gaming concessionaires pushing forward with vaccination incentives but a generalised and concerted effort by the public and private sectors is needed to not let the momentum slip away.

[MNA Editor-in-Chief]