Residents wearing face masks walk to a clinic designated for COVID vaccination in Hong Kong, March 22, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
HONG KONG – Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau has invalidated nearly 20,000 COVID-19 vaccination exemption certificates that were allegedly issued without proper clinical assessment, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government said on Wednesday.
In a statement issued on Wednesday night, the government said the certificates, issued by seven private doctors, can no longer be used for the Vaccine Pass program starting Nov 9.
Lo told the Legislative Council that police have arrested 39 people linked to the issuance of the suspicious certificates, including six doctors, seven staff members and 26 patients
“On the basis of information and records available, the Secretary for Health considers that it is in the public interest that all Exemption Certificates issued by the seven registered medical practitioners concerned cease to be valid for the purposes of the Vaccine Pass system,” the statement reads.
It added that exemptions issued by the seven doctors after Lo’s order came out also cannot be used for the Vaccine Pass.
ALSO READ: HK officials to visit seniors to boost vaccination
Lo told the Legislative Council on Wednesday that police have arrested 39 people linked to the issuance of the suspicious certificates, including six doctors, seven staff members and 26 patients.
“They are suspected to have committed the offenses of making a false instrument, conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to make a false instrument,” Lo said.
“Two of the doctors are charged with three counts of access to computer with dishonest intent and two counts of conspiracy to defraud respectively. One doctor is currently wanted by the police,” he added.
The government said that there were “reasonable grounds” for suspecting that the certificates, which account for more than half of currently valid exemption certificates in the city, were issued without proper medical diagnoses.
The Court of First Instance earlier ruled that legal provisions did not authorize the government to reject any person's exemption certificates for the Vaccine Pass.
READ MORE: HK jab certificate invalidation on hold
But on Tuesday, the government amended the Prevention and Control of Disease (Vaccine Pass) Regulation 2022, empowering the Secretary for Health to invalidate exemption certificates when there are "reasonable grounds" to suspect that these were issued without proper clinical assessment.
The government earlier said that it will arrange proper medical assessments for members of the public who hold exemption certificates obtained through improper means.