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Apr exports value up 1.1%

The value of Hong Kong’s total goods exports increased to $389 billion in April, up 1.1% compared with the same month last year, the Census & Statistics Department announced today.   The value of imports of goods rose 2.1% to $425.6 billion for the same period.   A trade deficit of $36.6 billion, or 8.6% of the value of imports, was recorded for the month.   Comparing the three-month period ending April with the preceding three months on a seasonally adjusted basis, the value of total exports decreased 12% while that of imports fell 11.7%.   The Government said epidemic-induced transportation disruptions, though easing somewhat in the latter part of the month, continued to constrain export performance.   It pointed out that exports to the Mainland fell while those to the US and the European Union posted visible growth.   Looking ahead, the global economic outlook has worsened amid rampant inflation in some major economies and monetary policy tightening by respective cen

Sewage holds virus clues

In a win-win strategy aimed at fighting the virus, the Government has teamed up with a cross-disciplinary team of the University of Hong Kong on sewage surveillance since October last year.   It is the Environmental Protection Department’s job to identify high-risk areas that require sewage surveillance according to the trend of the coronavirus epidemic, analyse the sewerage networks and devise a sampling strategy.   The Drainage Services Department plays an equally important role. It selects sewage manholes, arranges the sampling by contractors and carries out cleaning and disinfection after the sampling is completed.   As people usually go to the toilet in the morning, samples are taken every 15 minutes, from 8am to 11am. A total of 12 samples are taken to ensure they are sufficiently random.   Drainage Services Department Assistant Director Ho Yiu-kwong said: “We try to avoid conducting sampling at locations on major roads or carriageways because it will involve considerable disruption to the general public.”   Mr Ho explained that when it comes to the manholes in private areas, the department has to solicit help from private parties as it may not have the comprehensive records it needs to carry out the testing process.   Hunting silent carriers   The wastewater samples are sent to a University of Hong Kong laboratory. After removing impurities, the samples undergo inactivation, pre-concentration by centrifugation, nucleic acid extraction, gene testing, and data analysis.    Hong Kong University Department of Civil Engineering Prof Zhang Tong, who leads the cross-disciplinary team that developed the technology, said positive signals help uncover hidden COVID-19 cases.   “Some patients are infected with the virus, but they do not have symptoms. Secondly, they may have symptoms, but for some reasons they do not want to see a doctor. So by sewage tests, we still can catch the positive signals from these patients.”   Prof Zhang emphasised that tracing the source of the signals enables them to provide suggestions for the Government to take follow-up action.   Wider coverage   The surveillance work expanded from 26 regular sewage sampling sites in the initial stage to housing estates and street blocks. The Government further increased the number of regular sewage sampling sites to 64 last month.   Environmental Protection Department Assistant Director Chen Che-kong lauded the technological achievement that helped his department to accumulate a lot of experience on how to effectively monitor a large population.   “We search for feasible manholes around Hong Kong to have the surveillance cover all 18 districts. After we finalise the list of sampling points, if we monitor them regularly - in a cycle - we can cover a population of about four million, which is more than half of the population in Hong Kong,” he said.   The Government has conducted compulsory testing operations on over 110 buildings with positive sewage testing results, including the compulsory testing in the Jordan restricted area in January and at Choi Wan (II) Estate last December. More than 50 confirmed cases have been identified as a result.   The innovative sewage surveillance project is funded by the Food & Health Bureau’s Health & Medical Research Fund and fully supported by the Environment Bureau.   The technology was recently hailed at the 2021 International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva and the University of Hong Kong was honoured with a gold medal.
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Railway settlement exceeds limit

The construction works of a relocation project in Kowloon have been suspended after a settlement monitoring checkpoint exceeded the limit, the Government said today.   The project relocates supporting operational facilities of Tsim Sha Tsui Fire Station Complex, Fire Services Club and other fire services accommodations to To Wah Road in Kowloon.   The Government explained that the readings recorded in a settlement monitoring checkpoint installed inside the railway tunnel between Kowloon Station and Olympic Station of the MTR Tung Chung Line had reached 20.27mm on September 7. The preset trigger level for works suspension is 20mm.   For the sake of prudence, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation suspended relevant works within the railway protection area on the same day.   The Buildings Department and the Architectural Services Department deployed staff to inspect the affected railway tunnel and confirmed that it is structurally safe.   The Electrical & Mechanical Services