When managing epidemics of new infectious disease it is important to learn the lessons of the past, but also to recognise the specific variables and uncertainties of the present. Communicating risk in evolving epidemics involves recognising those uncertainties and being prepared to change advice on the basis of new and evolving evidence. Education, reliable information and effective communication are key factors in the management of epidemics of infectious disease.
As COVID-19 continues to spread in Hong Kong, and globally, information around this new disease evolves at a rapid pace. We have compiled a historical record of this evolving process for our patients. We have loaded all our previous communications such that they can be assessed in context.
Navigate through the months to see key disease milestones.
HK new guidelines and rules :The Hong Kong Government announced new guidelines starting from January 7th, 2022:
Starting from February 15th, Italy also tightened its workplace vaccine rules that anyone aged over 50 who are working must present a health pass proving they have been vaccinated or currently recovering from COVID-19.
OT&P published a blog titled, "Hong Kong Government Updated Advice on Covid Boosters"
The US FDA has authorized the second antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 at home. The medicine made by Merck and Ridgeback along with Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment for COVID-19 has been approved. The pill will only be available by prescriptions.
OT&P COVID-19 Winter Update.
OT&P Published, 'Covid 19 vaccine mandates: The arguments for and against.'
OT&P 13th Podcast episode. Dr David Owens and Professor Ben Cowling discuss the current situation in Hong Kong and the potential implications of the Omicron variant recently identified in South Africa. They discuss the dilemmas around vaccine hesitancy in the context of zero covid and specifically the threat of low vaccination rates in the vulnerable elderly. They also discuss the role of booster doses and the philosophical arguments around vaccine mandates.
Italy has implemented a “super green pass” which requires people to prove that they are vaccinated or recovering from COVID-19. Otherwise, they are no longer able to dine in or outside a restaurant, go to the gym or use public transport.
Researchers from the Department of Microbiology at HKUMed were the first team in Asia to successfully isolate the Omicron Variant.
China pledges to donate 1 Billion Covid 19 vaccines to Africa.
Hong Kong implemented additional travel restrictions on Southern African countries. Arrivals from those countries, must quarantine for 7 days on Penny's Bay before heading to a designated quarantine hotel.
Omicron is declared a variant of concern.
OT&P published, 'What is the COVID-19 Omicron Variant?'
Two cases of Omicron were detected in Hong Kong. The index case arrived from South Africa on 11.11.21. This first case was responsible for the second case in an adjacent quarantine room.
The Omicron variant was reported to the WHO has been detected in South Africa.
OT&P published a blog titled 'What Is It Like to Live With Long Covid?'
OT&P published a blog titled, "How Long Covid Affects Athletic Performance, featuring Dr. Nader Ayub"
Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) said moderately and severely immunocompromised persons should be offered an additional dose of all WHO-approved vaccines.
Singapore has announced that any unvaccinated individuals over the age of 12 can no longer be able to dine in restaurants, visit shopping malls or visit attractions starting from October 13th.
Hong Kong's updated vaccination records are now accepted by the UK Government to bypass testing and quarantine when travelling to the UK.
OT&P published a blog about whether if Hong Kong’s 21-day quarantine is evidence-based or justified.
OT&P COVID-19 Autumn Update.
OT&P 12th podcast episode. Dr David Owens and Professor Ben Cowling discuss the brittle nature of Zero Covid and the lack of evidence and potential harm caused by recent public health decisions around quarantine.
Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics is currently working on an experimental pill that can assist with treating COVID-19 cases. Early results showed patients who received the drug within five days of COVID-19 symptoms had about half the rate of hospitalization and death as patients who received a dummy pill.
The Hong Kong government announced most of the social distancing measures will remain unchanged for two weeks. Meanwhile, the maximum number of people allowed per banquet in catering businesses adopting the Type D mode of operation will be relaxed to 240.
Norway announced that it will end all COVID-related restrictions on September 25th, 2021.
OT&P published the resource page for consolidating all evolving evidence, news and research relating to COVID-19.
Same-day ticket arrangement for COVID-19 vaccination will be expanded from Wednesday to cover all eligible people who want to receive the jab.
WHO emphasized its call for a pause on booster doses until the end of 2021, with the exception of the immune-compromised, to help optimize supply to low-income countries.
OT&P published a blog about how evolving evidence does not support the Zero Covid strategy.
OT&P also published the resource page consolidating all news and research relating to Long Covid.
The two scientific committees under the Centre for Health Protection agreed that high-risk groups may need to take an additional dose but not urgent to do so, The committees also recommended teenagers aged 12 to 17 receive just one dose of the BioNTech vaccine instead of two.
OT&P 11th podcast episode. Dr David Owens and Professor Ben Cowling discuss the evidence for the reduced incubation period and increased infectivity of the delta variant and the importance of positive messaging to increase vaccination uptake in high-risk groups.
The Hong Kong Government announced that they will be tightening the travel restrictions as a response to a recent local transmission case.
The CDC has endorsed an additional dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for immunocompromised patients.
California, US becomes the first state to mandate all teachers and school staff to be vaccinated.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is the first university in Hong Kong that will prohibit any untested and unvaccinated visitors from its campus. Meanwhile, all students, staff and university residents will have to register for a digital pass, which can only be obtained with a COVID-19 vaccination record or biweekly test results.
Wales has lifted most of their COVID-19 restrictions, which includes removing all limits to indoor gatherings, vaccinated adults won’t have to isolate if in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case and all businesses can now reopen.
Starting from today, all 18 elderly health centres (EHCs) will now provide walk-in vaccination services for members without prior booking from Monday to Friday.
OT&P publishes a blog about why herd immunity is impossible in Hong Kong and why we need to vaccinate the vulnerable.
OT&P published a blog about whether if the younger age group should be vaccinated against COVID-19.
OT&P 10th podcast episode. Dr David Owens and Professor Ben Cowling discuss the evolving COVID-19 public health strategies playing out in different parts of the world.
England lifts their COVID-19 restrictions. Actions include ending social distancing, making facemasks non-mandatory, no longer imposing limits on gatherings and all closed venues will be able to reopen with no capacity limits.
The US government donated 2 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to assist Vietnam with its COVID-19 outbreak.
Hong Kong's COVID-19 Vaccination Programme has now been expanded to include approximately 2,000 more visitors who have to continue to stay in Hong Kong due to the epidemic.
WHO updated its patient care guidelines to include interleukin-6 receptor blockers, a class of medicines that can be lifesaving to patients who are severely or critically ill with COVID-19, especially when administered alongside corticosteroids.
OT&P publishes a blog answering which is the best vaccine for COVID-19 – BioNTech or Sinovac.
OT&P also publishes a blog explaining what is the Delta variant.
OT&P 9th podcast episode. Dr Owens and Professor Ben Cowling discuss the recent government decision to reduce quarantine for vaccinated individuals provided they have proof of positive antibodies.
The United States plans to donate 500 million doses of vaccines that will be used to target low and middle-income countries.
WHO has approved the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, giving countries, funders, procuring agencies and communities another option to tackle COVID-19.
A number of private firms in Hong Kong offer various lotteries and prizes for Hong Kong residents that have received both vaccination shots. The government and many firms have also started to offer additional incentives to their employees if they are vaccinated.
OT&P publish the seventh podcast discussing the sustainability of a Zero Covid strategy in the context of high vaccine hesitancy.
To drive vaccination rate, Sino Group announces a lottery draw for Hong Kong residents that have been vaccinated. The grand prize includes a HK$10.8m flat. It is the first of a number of incentives offered by private organisations.
The Hong Kong Government expanded the vaccination programme to include Mainland residents that are staying in Hong Kong for a period of time.
Hong Kong government will allow flights from the UK and Ireland to resume on May 7. Hong Kong residents in the two places may fly to Hong Kong as long as they acquire a negative COVID-19 test result with samples taken 72 hours prior to departure as well as confirmation of a 21-night room reservation in a designated quarantine hotel.
The United States announced 100 million adults are now fully vaccinated. This date was also the lowest weekly death rate the US has recorded for 2021. According to an analysis, there was an 80% drop since January.
About 1,377,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to the people of Hong Kong, with about 897,100 of them receiving their first dose and about 480,500 of them getting their second dose. This equal to 11.8% of Hong Kong’s total population had taken their first shot and 6.4% that had taken their second shot.
The United Kingdom administered 47.5 million vaccine doses as of this date, nearly 34 million of which are first shots. The UK is second only to Israel in terms of the proportion of the population who have received the first dose of vaccine, which stands at around 50% of their total population.
India reported 332,730 new COVID-19 cases on this day, which is the highest number of daily cases globally for the second day in a row.
The Hong Kong vaccination programme was expanded to cover people aged 16 to 29. People in this age group could book their vaccination shots starting at April 23.
Hong Kong government kicked off the Outreach Vaccination Arrangement for Residential Care Homes (RCHs) today. The arrangement helps provide free vaccination services at RCHs for their residents and users of their day service.
The coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom is now the most common strain in the United States.
Hong Kong and Macau government suspended BioNTech vaccination after packaging defects were found in one batch of the vaccine. Preliminary findings show that this defect should not cause any health risks and the suspension is undertaken as a precaution. 
COVID-19 cases in Europe continues to increase with many fearing that this is a third wave. Several European countries have reintroduced lockdowns and imposed stricter social distancing measures as a result :
The UK vaccination programme is a huge success. More than 95% of elderly aged 60 or over have received their first jabs. Half of the adults in UK have also received their first dose of vaccine.
The French Government announced a four-week lockdown in Paris and parts of northern France due to the transmission of the highly contagious COVID-19 variants coupled with a slow vaccination rollout. 
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 120 million.
Hong Kong was hit by a super spreader event at a fitness gym. The government reported 10 confirmed cases related to the gym on this day. Altogether, the gym cluster expanded to 109 cases.
Many residential buildings and workplaces in the Central and Western Districts are now covered by compulsory testing notices. Over 860 close contacts of cluster patients are quarantined and more than 2,200 people are required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing as a result.
Hong Kong is now rolling out the BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as part of their vaccination program.
The United Kingdom identified six cases of the variant that was first detected in Brazil, triggering an extensive targeted testing program.
A new COVID-19 cluster in Hong Kong originates in Mr. Ming’s Chinese Dining at K11 Musea Shopping Centre. This cluster is tied to a total of 44 confirmed cases. K11 Musea shuts down for two days after the cluster number grew. 
Hong Kong begins the rollout of their mass vaccination program.
Hong Kong government begins to ease its social distancing measures:
WHO reports that the number of reported global weekly COVID-19 cases has dropped nearly 50% due to public health measures. 
The weekly confirmed cases in the US have dropped from an average of 254,002 confirmed cases to 108,153 confirmed cases within the span of January to February. This represents a 57% reduction in confirmed cases. The following measures have been implemented over this time :
The UK government introduces mandatory hotel quarantine, starting from 15 February 2021. Anyone that travel to the UK from a country on the UK’s banned list will be required to quarantine for 10 days in a government approved facility.
Japan announced tighter COVID-19 restrictions:
The Hong Kong Government updated the compulsory testing policy for buildings. The building will be listed for compulsory testing if:
Since January 23 2021, the Hong Kong Government has closed 8 different districts in 11 days, tested nearly 10,000 people and found 14 confirmed patients.
Marked one year since WHO declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 100 million.
For the first time, Hong Kong implemented mandatory lockdown in the restricted area. More than half of the confirmed cases came from the Yau Tsim Mong District in the past two weeks. To curb the local epidemic, the government has blocked the Jordan area, and all residents must stay at home for mandatory testing.
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 90 million.
OT&P publish a blog about the viral mutations being reported in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
OT&P 16th newsletter.
OT&P publish the first podcast update about the transmission of COVID-19, Closing Schools and the balance of public health measures. This episode features Professor Ben Cowling, who is the division head of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong.
OT&P also publish a blog about vaccines for COVID-19.
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 60 million.
Total COVID-19 death toll surpasses 1 million.
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 40 million.
South Korea and Japan relaxed their restriction on business travel with a bilateral agreement. Short-term business travellers are exempted from 14-days quarantine .
Total COVID-19 cases surpass 30 million.
OT&P 15th newsletter. This is also the first newsletter to have an audio version available.
OT&P publish findings of a recent study exploring our patient perceptions of the mass testing program: 'Survey of Patient Perceptions of the Hong Kong Mass Testing Program and Recognition of Potential Barriers to Testing'.
Total COVID-19 cases surpass 20 million.
OT&P 14th newsletter.
This also marks the start of Hong Kong's third "wave" with COVID-19.
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 11 million.
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 10 million.
OT&P 13th newsletter.
OT&P publish a blog asking ‘what we know about COVID-19 and how lifestyle and diet affect the severity of the disease?’
OT&P publish a blog ‘what are Antibodies are and why they are so important’?
OT&P 12th newsletter.
OT&P 11th newsletter.
OT&P announce a study with the University of Hong Kong. The study will provide evidence of the effectiveness of the community-wide interventions that Hong Kong has been implementing. The study required 1,500 volunteers to donate a blood sample. The response to the newsletter was extraordinary, such that we had more than 3,000 volunteers within 4 hours and the study was oversubscribed.
We published a COVID-19 Q&A.
OT&P 10th newsletter.
Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 1 million.
OT&P 9th newsletter.
The United Kingdom goes into lockdown.
OT&P 8th newsletter.
Hong Kong records 48 new infections, the biggest daily tally so far.
As more politicians made bleak predictions about COVID-19, we discussed the danger of predictions of mortality in evolving epidemics.
OT&P 7th newsletter.
We published a blog asking whether it is better to contain or delay and mitigate?
WHO declares the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic.
Hong Kong reaches the milestone of 100 confirmed cases.
OT&P 5th newsletter.
We asked the question ‘How do we get back to normal?’
To assist parents in dealing with school closure, OT&P children’s behavioural therapist wrote an article on how to maintain structure at home during this period.
South Korea reports over 20 more cases on this day, marking the beginning of the outbreak cluster in Daegu, South Korea.
OT&P 2nd newsletter.
Communicating risk in an epidemic: A personal perspective written by Dr David Owens as a reflection of his previous experience of the epidemics of TB, HIV and SARS.
First death recorded in Hong Kong from COVID-19. A 39-year old male who had travelled to Wuhan on the 21st of January with an underlying illness.
OT&P published a blog explaining why the WHO has declared the global health emergency.
The first two COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the UK.
OT&P produce their first newsletter.
The first blog: the distinction between the disease and the epidemic was published.
Hong Kong also recorded its first positive case, a 39-year-old man who arrived in Hong Kong from China.
We will continue to update this timeline regularly to include major milestones and information. If you’d like to receive updates directly to your inbox, please subscribe to our newsletter.