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The pandemic has dramatically transformed Hong Kong people’s lives, leaving many of them with grief, stress, anxiety, and even helplessness at times. It has had detrimental effects not only on their personal life, community health, but also on the economy and cultural values of the entire society. Information delivery, guidance, and prevention measures from the government and public health sectors are crucial, and inconsistencies or ambiguities will inevitably trigger public panic. It is crucial for the government and public sectors to fine-tune and curate health promotion messages and maintain public support. Under this theme, we aim to understand how the public process such threats by identifying the factors underlying public anxiety, and how people manage, reduce and overcome social anxiety. In addition, the success of crisis handling depends on public compliance with government advice, the public's concerns amid the surging fifth wave will be explored in relation to compliance with government advice on preventive measures and social distancing. Public distrust will be one of the factors being examined. Our outputs will provide guidelines on how to increase the reach of the evidence-based information, clarify misinformation related to the pandemic, and promote public support for COVID-19 prevention policies. Overall, our research facilitates an informed, collaborative, and supporting society for better health amid the pandemic.  


Combating COVID-19 in Hong Kong Project


Understanding Infodemic and Vaccine Hesitancy — An Overview of Misinformation Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic in Hong Kong


Hong Kong is struggling to contain its most severe COVID-19 outbreak caused by the Omicron variant. A growing body of evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccination plays a crucial role in fighting the pandemic, which makes vaccine hesitancy a nonsense—why do these vaccinehesitant people overlook the scientific evidence and refuse to get a jab? However, many of us might have experienced a moment of “hesitation” if we consider the contextual information. Will a mother-to-be in early pregnancy get vaccinated if she learns the rumours that the vaccine may cause miscarriages? Will a person who cares about his or her elderly parents be deterred by the viral misinformation that the vaccines are killing people? Amid the pandemic, everyone has to make tough choices and challenging decisions they have never faced before—Should we stock up on toilet paper? What kind of face masks should we buy? Should we trust traditional Chinese medicine to prevent and treat COVID-19? Should we get vaccinated? Which vaccine should we choose and when should we get it? Over the past two years, there are myriad choices you have to make. Have you ever hesitated? Why have you hesitated? Studies found that negative misinformation will reduce vaccination rate—the misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccine will increase the public’s confusion and mistrust, thus, reducing their motivation to get the jab. Among several possible factors, information is the key to a rational choice: One of the key issues in the public debate on the pandemic is how to discern the truth amid the huge amount of information. Like many other parts in the world, professional fact-checking organisations


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Examining COVID-19 Vaccination Misinformation and Clarification by the Public Sector in Hong Kong


Hong Kong has begun to experience the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic surge since January 2022. A recent analysis by the Financial Times (Barnes et al., 2022) finds that Hong Kong has set a global record for the highest daily confirmed cases, but Hong Kong’s overall vaccination rate has lagged far behind its peer countries (Barnes et al., 2022). From the public health communication perspective, exposure to misinformation about COVID-19 can reduce the public’s intention to be vaccinated (Daly & Robinson, 2020; Roozenbeek et al., 2020).


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Peeling off the Digital Surface of Your Anxiety: Using Machine Learning to Analyze Residents’ Anxiety amid the Surging Fifth Wave of COVID-19 in Hong Kong


Since January 2022, Hong Kong has experienced severe challenges posed by the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The COVID-19 infection was in a dire situation in Hong Kong, with 10,000 new confirmed cases reported on average each day (Centre for Health Protection, 2022). Right before the burst of the fifth wave of the pandemic, Hong Kong had been expecting the border reopening with mainland China with rounds of negotiations and efforts to keep the pandemic situation under control. The suddenly acute pandemic rapidly saturated every aspect of people’s lives, crashing people’s dreams of reunions with family or regular economic exchanges, causing them to feel at sea, along with the unavoidable increased level of stress, anxiety, and depression (Choi et al., 2020; Salari et al., 2020).


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Understanding how to boost elderly vaccination rate


Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Hong Kong has recorded over 7,000 deaths involving COVID-19, nearly 90% of whom are unvaccinated or have received only one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Most of them are the elderly. In Hong Kong, the vaccination rate of the elderly is still rather low. The percentage of people aged 60 to 69 who have received at least one dose is 90%, while the rates for the age groups of 70-79 and 80 or above are 80% and 57%, respectively.


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