Two women sit on a bench overlooking the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on Sept 29, 2022. (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government reminded the public that the nearly 20,000 COVID-19 vaccination exemption certificates that were allegedly issued by seven private doctors without proper clinical assessment will be considered invalid by Wednesday.

In a statement on Tuesday night, the government said Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau determined that there were no reasonable grounds to revoke his previous orders that these certificates should be invalidated.

The Centre for Health Protection said in a statement that the new cases comprised 4,250 local infections and 399 imported cases

“It is in the public interest to uphold the declarations 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.

The government urged those who have these certificates to consult other private doctors as soon as possible or visit the general out-patient clinics under the Hospital Authority.

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Lo told the Legislative Council on Oct 26 that police had 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.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Health Protection said there were 4,649 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday while four more infected patients passed away.

The CHP said in a statement that the new cases comprised 4,250 local infections and 399 imported cases. The four new deaths brought the city’s toll during the fifth wave of infections to 10,266. Hong Kong saw 5,198 new cases on Monday.

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The CHP said 16 residential care homes for the elderly and persons with disabilities had 23 new cases while 513 schools reported 750 students and 128 staff members getting infected. Eighteen schools had to suspend 19 in-person classes for one week due to infections.

As of Tuesday, 1,947 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were being treated in public hospitals hospitalized for treatment, including 199 new patients, the HA said in a separate statement.

There were 169 patients requiring oxygen therapy and nine patients requiring ventilator support, it added. 

The HA also said that 34 patients were in critical condition, including nine in intensive care units, while 55 were in serious condition.