I am delighted that you and your sons like my song “Beat the Virus”, which I wrote to boost the morale of Hong Kongers in the pandemic. As your mentor, I applaud your wise parenting, spending time with your children amidst your busy schedule as a front line doctor; and I appreciate your sense of humour to laugh along with your colleagues watching the video together.
Indeed, stressful doctors and nurses in the pandemic have to keep mentally healthy and happy, in the face of daily challenges. We need to relax often when we face excessive expectations, demands and frustrations. While no health workers were infected in the first and second waves, many doctors and nurses were infected in the fourth wave. A doctor was even admitted to the ICU. In the third and fourth waves, more than 150 citizens died, as compared to 8 deaths in the first and second waves.
It is really high time for the Government to classify Covid-19 as an “occupational disease” for those who got infected through their work.
It is worrying that despite restrictive social distancing measures since November, the number of daily confirmed cases failed to return to single digits, with many cases of unknown origin.
Hong Kongers must continue to be vigilant in masking, social distancing, staying home, avoiding social gatherings, and washing hands with soap water or disinfecting them with alcohol sanitizers for 20 seconds after touching objects or before touching face, eyes, nose and mouth.
However, I observe that many people don’t wear masks properly, failing to cover the nostrils; many touch their masks frequently and do not sanitize their hands after touching the polluted masks; some pull the masks down to the neck when they drink, eat or smoke, thus contaminating the inside of the masks by the droplets on the exposed neck and when they pull the masks up again, the contaminated inside of the mask would touch the nose and mouth.
I know your husband John is a smoker. As smokers are more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection, he is endangered especially if he, like many others who smoke in the streets, pull their masks down; and the pedestrians around him would also be at risk.
These loopholes could account for the cases with unknown origin.
To end this pandemic nightmare, mass vaccination is now hailed as light at the end of the tunnel; and in many countries, vaccination has already begun. The Hong Kong Medical Association has liaison with medical associations around the world. The President of the Israel Medical Association told me that Israel has already vaccinated 2 million, that is 22% of its 9.3 million population.
Our Government has ordered 7.5 million doses each of the three chosen types of Covid 19 vaccines : Sinovac, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford; and it is announced that vaccination will begin around the Lunar New Year, in Community centers, Government and private clinics, and elderly homes.
For mass vaccination to succeed, the Government must try its best to educate the public about the need for vaccination; and to fend off misconceptions and false messages, especially the fallacies wrapped in pseudoscience, denouncing the vaccines.
The choice of vaccines , should of course be based on published peer reviewed scientific research data , rather than emotional or political considerations.
For herd immunity to develop, we should vaccinate at least 80% of the population, or over 2/3 of the population within this year, i.e. 5 million of our 7.5 million people, with 2 injections for each person, amounting to 28,000 injections per day.
So this is a daunting task which requires resolute leadership, with seamless inter-departmental cooperation and collaboration of different bureaus. The Government needs well-planned user-friendly logistics. Transparency builds confidence. People need “informed choices”, with pre-vaccination consent, and 15-30 minutes’ rest time after vaccination. Resuscitation equipment should also be available at each vaccination centre, although severe allergic reaction is extremely rare. Israel has only one reported case of anaphylaxis in the 2 million vaccinees, and the person had recovered without complications.
As a doctor, you know vaccines take weeks to develop immunity. As the elderly were more susceptible to Covid-19 infection, all elderly citizens and all staff working in the elderly homes should be vaccinated as early as possible.
Scientific researches have found Vitamin D supplement useful in the prevention and management of Covid-19 infection; and in the reduction of mortality of Covid-19 patients, though there is still ongoing debate, pending randomized controlled trials. As citizens are advised to stay home due to Covid-19 pandemic, many Asians with coloured skin cannot produce sufficient Vitamin D in the winter. Vitamin D is not only vital for our bones but also important for our immune system. 4000 iu of Vitamin D per day has been advised for adults to maintain a serum level of 50 nmol/litre of 25 OH Vit D. Overweight people are suggested to take 1.5 times more the usual dosage.
As the elderly are prone to Vitamin D deficiency, I urge the Government to provide Vitamin D for all elderly over 65 years of age for the potential protective benefit. Daily Vitamin D fortifications could be given to residents in the elderly homes. In fact, mandatory Vitamin D fortification of milk products has already been implemented in Canada and Sweden.
As incentives for the mass vaccination programme, the Government could consider giving out Vitamin D supplement for all Covid-19 vaccinees when they leave the venues, together with educational materials on the vital role of Vitamin D in our immune system, and a vaccination certificate or code, good for job applications, travelling, reopening of restaurants, gyms, theatres and businesses alike.
Vaccination is not 100% protection. We need to continue proper masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, and daily Vitamin D fortification.
Jane, keep up your morale with good mood while working hard with dignity and passion in the frontline, especially during this difficult time when doctors are often misunderstood and unfortunately, even demonized in Hong Kong.
Thank you for encouraging me to stand for the Medical Council election last autumn. With your support I was elected again. The Medical Council, made up of both doctors and non-medical members representing the benefits of patients, plays the important role of upholding the standard of Hong Kong’s doctors, safeguarding the health of all citizens and serving the interests of all people in Hong Kong.
In closing, I pray that God will bless your family and all Hong Kongers with good physical, mental and spiritual health in the New Year!
Yours sincerely, Uncle Alvin
How are you doing lately? I suppose work is keeping you busy as always.
How time flies! December 1st marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the MPF System, which reminds me that you also graduated and entered the work force in 2000. That’s also when you started making contributions to your MPF account, which means that you have really grown together with the MPF System in the past 20 years.
Looking back, the journey of the MPF System, like that of our life journeys, has really seen its ups and downs.
I still recall that in the 80s and 90s, Hong Kong went through a long discussion about establishing a retirement protection system. Finally, the Government made the decision to set up the MPF System in accordance with the Pillar 2 system in the multi-pillar retirement model advocated by the World Bank.
When the MPF System was launched in December 2000, the economy was in a downturn amid the Asian financial crisis and financial markets were in turmoil. The SARS outbreak added to the economic hardship and there were really doubts about the future of the whole MPF System in the minds of the general public.
Gradually, the economy began to recover, and with that, the MPF was gaining wider acceptance by the public. Still, financial markets were hit by periodic turmoil, some of them were quite violent, such as the 2008 financial crisis, and successive black swan events in recent years, including Brexit, the China-US trade war and, of course, COVID-19.
Despite all these challenges, the resilience and sustainability of the MPF System stood the test of time. The total assets of the MPF System started from scratch but have now grown to over one trillion dollars, of which about $700 billion are principal while the remaining $300 billion are investment return net of fees and charges. This sizable sum represents not only the personal savings of individual citizens, it is also an important retirement savings pool of our community with its ageing population. Since the establishment of the MPF System, the overall annualized return has been 3.9%, compared to an average inflation rate of 1.7% over the same period.
With respect to coverage, prior to the launch of the MPF System, only about one third of the local work force participated in some form of retirement protection scheme. Today, more than 85% of the work force is covered by MPF or other retirement schemes. This coverage rate is among the highest in the world, and it is an important indicator of the success of the MPF System. The MPF System has also served to promote financial inclusion. The fact that MPF has no minimum investment threshold means that even low income workers making small monthly contributions can invest in high quality and well regulated fund products. Indeed, without the MPF System, some of our workers would be denied the opportunity to invest their savings on a regular basis in a wide range of sophisticated financial products to diversify investment risks. This demonstrates that MPF is a pioneering system in driving financial inclusion.
For two decades, the MPFA has made continuing efforts to meet changing public expectations. Reform initiatives include regular reviews and adjustments of the minimum and maximum levels of relevant income for MPF contributions. The Employee Choice Arrangement, launched in 2012, gave employees greater freedom in choosing their trustees and managing their investments. The Default Investment Strategy, which was rolled out in 2017, made investing easier for people who need help in choosing the funds that are right for them. And to encourage people to save more for retirement, Tax Deductible Voluntary Contributions (TVC) was introduced last year.
With regard to fees and charges of the MPF funds which have long been a point of contention, despite the fact that the MPFA has no statutory power to regulate fees, nonetheless we have been adopting a multi-pronged approach with a view to increasing transparency, promoting market competition, and enhancing scheme members’ financial literacy so that they can choose MPF funds that offer good value for money. With these efforts, the overall Fund Expense Ratio of MPF has gone down from 2.1% in 2007 to 1.45% at present, representing a significant decrease of 31%. But in any case, all scheme members looking to minimize fees now have the option to choose the Default Investment Strategy, which is offered at fees capped below 1%.
The MPF System is now entering its third decade, and we have more recently embarked on the development of the eMPF Platform. This digital platform will streamline administrative processes, improve efficiency and reduce the overall costs of the MPF System. This project represents the most sweeping reform of the MPF System to date. We aim to finish building the Platform by the end of 2022. It is expected to forge a new landscape for the MPF ecosystem, deepen market competition and ultimately bring about a better user experience with lower prices for the benefit of our scheme members.
Albert, if you ask me what is the key to the success of the MPF System in Hong Kong, I’d say the key is threefold: Hong Kong’s sound financial system, the diversity of investment products, and the possession of basic knowledge about the market on the part of the participants.
The original purpose of setting up the MPF System was to help the public develop good saving habits by making fixed monthly contributions for their retirement needs. Looking forward, the MPFA will remain faithful to its mission by actively managing this important pillar of retirement protection for the people of Hong Kong.
Wishing you good health and all the best!
29 November 2020