Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (center) visits Hong Kong Baptist University's Chinese Medicine Telemedicine Centre Against COVID-19 on March 12. （Photo provided to China Daily）
The fifth wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong has strengthened the social recognition of traditional Chinese medicine in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Thursday at a daily news conference on the outbreak that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has requested that the central government send another group of TCM practitioners from the Chinese mainland to the city to help fight the epidemic.
"The SAR government agrees that the mainland method of prescribing traditional Chinese medicine to treat COVID patients is applicable in Hong Kong, and the city should leverage on the treatment of Chinese medicine. We believe sending another batch of traditional Chinese medicine practitioners will greatly help Hong Kong in fighting the pandemic," Lam said.
The administration launched a mechanism on Monday for medical tele-consultation by TCM practitioners. Such practitioners in Hong Kong are subsidized by the Chinese Medicine Development Fund to provide free professional tele-consultation services and delivery of TCM services to COVID-19 patients who are quarantined at home.
The SAR government has included TCM items in its anti-epidemic kits distributed to Hong Kong residents. It also has already distributed some 1.2 million TCM sachets donated by the country.
In March, the Institute of Chinese Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Singapore-based TCM manufacturer and retailer Eu Yan Sang teamed up to make 10,000 TCM sachets based on an herbal formula that can help prevent COVID-19 infection by boosting a person's innate immunological ability.
The sachets are then distributed via two outlets of Eu Yan Sang and an outlet of the Chinese medicine institute to 1,000 care workers and the elderly at nursing homes, as well as medical workers in the city, with no major adverse effects reported.
The herbal formula consists of two parts: one supports the qi, or body's vital force, and the other is a simple herbal combination for mild symptoms. The formula proved to be safe and effective when it was used during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003.
Eu Yan Sang has agreed to manufacture more herbal sachets, once funding is obtained, as it has already sourced herbal ingredients that can be used to produce 30,000 to 40,000 TCM sachets. Targeted recipients will be care workers and the elderly at nursing homes, as well as medical workers.
"The pandemic has made people more aware of the efficacy of Chinese medicine in preventing infectious diseases," said Leung Ping-chung, director of the Centre for Clinical Trials on Chinese Medicine at Chinese University of Hong Kong's Institute of Chinese Medicine.
The Chinese medicine institute is doing research on adding supplements and probiotics to the herbal formula with the aim of manufacturing some kind of oral treatment that could boost the immunological defense against COVID-19.
Kenlay Wong Kwong-fai, executive president of the Hong Kong Chinese Medicine Industry Association, said: "The efficacy of the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen in curbing COVID-19 symptoms has been greatly recognized in the community. The development of TCM is gradually being recognized by the government and the general public."
Chan Wing-kwong, president of the Hong Kong Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioners Association, said that as more coronavirus patients are seeking medical consultations from TCM practitioners, the popularity of TCM will continue to increase in the city.
By leveraging the largest network of TCM practitioners and pharmacists in Hong Kong, Hong Kong-listed Wai Yuen Tong Medicine Holdings will deploy its experienced practitioners and pharmacists in its proprietary stores in the city to provide on-site medical consultation services.
The TCM retailer is also launching TCM tele-medical consultations, enabling patients to receive consultations without leaving home and have prescribed TCM medicine delivered the same day.