In this on Aug 15, 2021 photo, people walk past a government banner encouraging the public to take the COVID-19 vaccines in Hong Kong. (BERTHA WANG / AFP)
The Hong Kong government is going to tighten the testing requirements for unvaccinated employees to push them to take COVID-19 jabs, saying those who refuse to take the jabs without duly certified medical reasons are acting irresponsibly, raising the risk of infection in their offices.
Starting Dec 28, government employees who haven’t taken the first dose of coronavirus vaccine would have to get tested every three days instead of once a week at their own expense. Same as the current arrangements, the specimens collected from them must be through combined nasal and throat swabs.
The announcement came on Tuesday, when the city reported eight imported COVID-19 cases, bringing the city’s tally to 12,541. The same day, health officials also banned Qatar Airways flights from Doha from landing in Hong Kong.
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“In view of increasing threat posed to Hong Kong amid the growing number of infection cases involving mutant strains of COVID-19 with high transmissibility in the world, it is necessary for the government to press for early COVID-19 vaccination among its employees so as to ensure that government bureaux and departments have a strong defense,” a government spokesman said in a statement.
In mid-February, a “vaccine bubble” arrangement at govt buildings and offices will be implemented, whereby govt employees entering the premises will be required to present vaccination proof
Since the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination program, the government has reiterated on many occasions that the civil service plays an important role in the anti-epidemic effort and the provision of public services, as such government employees have an obligation to get vaccinated, it read.
Around 96 percent of government employees have taken the first dose of vaccine so far.
A “vaccine bubble” arrangement at government buildings and offices will be implemented in mid-February, under which government employees entering the premises for work-related purposes will be required to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination, the spokesman said.
Upon implementation of the "vaccine bubble" arrangement, the requirement of using the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile application while entering government buildings or offices will continue, said the spokesman.
The Centre for Health Protection said in a statement that the new cases involved three men from the United Kingdom, two men from Ghana, an 11-year-old boy from Germany, a man from Pakistan, and a woman who returned from the US.
Except for the boy from Germany, all of them were fully vaccinated. They all carried mutant strains, the CHP said.
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The 54-year-old woman who returned from the US lives at Block 18A, Serenity Villa, 230A Tai Po Tau, Tai Po.
People wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus, walk near the check-in counters at Hong Kong International Airport on Mar 24, 2020. (ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP)
She travelled to the US on December 16 after testing negative for the virus. When she returned on Dec 19, her specimen collected at the airport was positive for COVID-19.
“The patient is asymptomatic and with a Ct value below 30. As a prudent measure, the places where she resided and visited in Hong Kong during the incubation period have been included in a compulsory testing notice on Dec 19,” the CHP said.
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The CHP also said that since Qatar Airways flights from Doha had five cases within a seven-day period from Dec 14 to 20, the Department of Health decided to prohibit such flights from landing in Hong Kong from Dec 22 to Jan 4.
A total of 67 virus cases were reported from Dec 7 to 20 in Hong Kong and all of them were imported, the CHP added.