From the President's Desk
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Coronavirus Pandemic and One Health
A groundbreaking ceremony on 19 November kicked off construction for our dairy farm in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po. The farm will serve for teaching and research into veterinary medicine. It is estimated that the farm will begin supplying high-quality CityU milk and ice cream in a year’s time.
Up to 630,000 new global Covid-19 cases on a single day were reported, with the cumulative number of confirmed cases reaching 54 million. The pandemic has worsened, and measures to prevent and counter it have been adopted. A lockdown has been implemented in England and Austria, a state of emergency announced in Portugal, while the US, India and Brazil are in a jittery state. I analysed WHO data on Covid-19 from the perspective of systems engineering for an IEEE editorial. Concurrently, the following was presented at the Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study on 30 September:
- From January to May 2020, the coronavirus pandemic was rampant all over the world, and the related data were chaotic, indicating a lack of attention to the pandemic at that time, all of which explains today’s disastrous situation.
- After May 2020, the number of confirmed cases globally has risen exponentially and the number of deaths among all confirmed cases has grown in a linear pattern. Dominated by political populism, and though the pandemic is out of control, the marginal death toll has slowed down, relatively speaking.
- The global case fatality rate reached 10% in May 2020 but has dropped gradually to 2.4%. It is expected that the global case fatality rate will drop to 0.01% between September 2021 and January 2022.
This worldwide trauma was caused by ignorance of the One Health concept. Around 70% of emerging human infectious diseases are closely related to animals. The current pandemic has brutally but plainly confirmed that One Health is a basic principle on which a healthy world depends. Recent epidemics involving the transmission of microbes between animals and humans as in the cases of Scottish trout, Wuhan bats, Danish or Greek mink emphasise that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the health of our pet friends.
As early as 2008, CityU recognised the gap in knowledge and proposed establishing a veterinary school to promote scientific research on food safety and zoonotic diseases. Two presidents of Cornell University supported the collaboration with us. The Dean of the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine visited us three times and signed a memorandum of collaboration in December 2009 to jointly promote One Health. Hong Kong’s lack of vision has resulted in a loss in society and weaknesses in technology motivation. After fighting for ten years and overcoming significant hurdles and resistance, until the cows came home, in 2019 we finally received government support to set up the first six-year Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine programme, which is targeted to be internationally accredited. This will be a milestone for teaching and research into animal medicine in the region.
“Things that can be completed easily are trivial things.” In fact, the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences has embarked on a more complex path for quality connections with strategic partners. In addition to Cornell University, the College is connected with other excellent partners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. We enriched the professional expertise in our own companion animal clinic through global recruitment and set up the veterinary diagnostic laboratory to provide services for Hong Kong and East Asia.
“Nature treats all things the same, regarding all lives as straw dogs.” Humans, animals and the environment co-exist and prosper. In a heavily polluted ecology with social disturbance, resolving the One Health dilemma from a fundamental perspective is a must.
Let’s all cherish our health!
President and University Distinguished Professor
Note: The original Chinese version of this article was published in Hong Kong Economic Journal on 19 November 2020.