COVID-19 Pandemic Research
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a global challenge with more than 530 million confirmed cases and over 6.3 million deaths worldwide as of 7 June 2022. A total of 11.9 billion vaccines does have been administered globally. The pandemic is at different stages of control in different countries and the conditions for elimination of the coronavirus are not apparent. As the world shifts the focus from control of COVID-19 risks to exit strategies for physical distancing and mitigation of socioeconomic impact and vaccination, we are confronted with the challenge for the need to align strategies for infection prevention and control with normalisation of businesses and social lives. The Centre is conducting research studies locally and globally on the control and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to address the knowledge gaps and generate insights for decision makers in health policy in preventing and controlling the outbreak.
(i) Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) studies
The Director of the Centre has been commissioned by HMRF of FHB to examine Hong Kong’s early detection, assessment and response system (S-EDAR) to the new emerging infectious disease outbreak COVID-19 in May 2020. A second research grant was awarded by HMRF in April 2021 to conduct a study on “Epidemic intelligence and a data informed risk assessment system to inform policy decisions critical for maintaining systems control of COVID-19 in strategies to enhance recovery”, “Identifying asymptomatic carriers through longitudinal follow-up of close contacts of known COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers taking care of these patients”, and “How high is the risk of environmental contamination and airborne infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus?”. Studies aim to support Government’s public health strategies in the control of COVID-19. The data that we collect will enable us to identify the information and evidence needed and the sources and types of data that is available globally or could be captured near-time in the local context to generate the information for epidemic intelligence required for decision-marking.
(ii) World Health Organization (WHO) studies
We have been engaged in a WHO COVID-19 Social Science Research Group and are involved in a range of COVID-19 studies in:
- Psychosocial Care during COVID-19
- Government Response Measures to COVID-19
- The Role of Evolving Evidence in COVID-19 Response and Recovery Decision Making
- Rapid Review of Qualitative Research Tools
- Home Care Service to Older Adults with Chronic Disease during COVID-19
Specifically, Prof EK Yeoh is the lead of the WHO Health System Impact Subgroup of the WHO COVID-19 Social Science Research Group, and work with universities and/ or Ministry of Health of five other Asian Jurisdictions including South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Shanghai and Japan since April 2020 to to examine key government containment, control and mitigation policies and measures which have generated insights for policy learning applicable for different contexts in other jurisdictions. A technical report has been produced for dissemination by WHO GOARN. From the results of this study, a paper on assessing the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions on the transmissibility and severity of COVID in the Western Pacific Region was published in an international peer-reviewed journal.
The Centre Director was further engaged by WHO to synthesise current knowledge and research evidence for a policy brief on Social Science/ Community-centred Considerations for Public Health and Social Measures (PHSMs) Adjustment.
(iii) Collaborative Research Fund (CRF) of Research Grants Council (RGC)
Prof Eliza Wong, a member of the Centre, in collaboration with the research team of City University of Hong Kong has been awarded in March 2021 a grant of $4,182,000 from the Collaborative Research Fund (CRF) of Research Grants Council (RGC) to conduct a study on “Resilient PPE Supply Chains for Hong Kong Health Systems: Current and Post Covid-19 Pandemic”. The study aims to improve protection for front-line healthcare practitioners with resilient PPE supply chains for Hong Kong health systems. The study explores the possibility of redesigning the PPE workflow and supply chain in order to respond resiliently to infectious diseases in the future. The aim is to introduce new concepts such as time-to-recovery, performance impact and time-to-survive, to measure resilience of the PPE supply chain, infectious diseases, and improve protection for front-line healthcare practitioners.
(iv) Other related studies on system response to COVID-19
Studies on system response to COVID-19 are also being conducted in the Centre. For example, we have conducted analysis of COVID-19 data from Department of Health and Hospital Authority to examine the characteristics of unlinked cases, exposure settings and super spreading potential by Omicron variants, and with publications of the research in international journals. Primary data collection in the general public is being conducted to analyse perspectives of government COVID-19 testing policies. Some of the results have been shared with government, and published in international peer-reviewed journals, while a number of manuscripts are being prepared for submission.