LCQ14: Operation of community isolation facilities
In light of the surge in the number of confirmed cases when the fifth wave of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 epidemic was severe, the SAR Government, with the full support of the Central Government, constructed a large number of temporary facilities, including community isolation facilities (CIFs), and was given assistance in their operation. With the easing of the epidemic situation, the Government turned, except for the CIF located in Penny's Bay, the six CIFs located in San Tin, Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities Island of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Fanling, Hung Shui Kiu, Yuen Long Tam Mi and Tsing Yi into standby mode on May 9 this year. Regarding the operation of CIFs, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the following information on each of the aforesaid seven CIFs during the period between December 31 last year and May 8 this year: (i) the occupancy rate, (ii) the number of staff employed, their ranks and remuneration, and the total expenditure, as well as (iii) the criteria for determining the remuneration; and
(2) given that during the aforesaid period, the Government mobilised public officers, former public officers and voluntary organisations to assist in operating CIFs and distributing anti-epidemic kits, and it also mobilised district volunteers to assist in packing and distributing anti-epidemic kits, whether the Government will offer nominal remuneration to these persons; if so, of the amount and timetable?
To combat the fifth wave of the epidemic, the Security Bureau set up an Anti-epidemic Task Force in February this year to take up the management work of the Community Isolation Facilities (CIFs) used for accommodating confirmed patients with mild or no symptoms. With the full support of the Central Government, the six CIFs located at Tsing Yi, San Tin, Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities Island of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Fanling, Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long Tam Mei were completed and handed over for operation within March. The handing over of the fifth and sixth phases of the Penny's Bay CIF has started progressively since April 19. Having consulted the Home Affairs Bureau, the consolidated reply to the questioned raised by Hon Mrs Regina Ip is as follows:
(1) (i) The occupancy rate of the above seven CIFs varies and hinges on various factors such as the changes and development of the epidemic, with individual CIF having an occupancy rate once up to 90 per cent. For the sake of cost-effectiveness, the Government is now operating the Penny's Bay CIF and CIF Hotel (Note). The remaining six CIFs constructed with the Central Government's support have been put into standby mode. These facilities can be re-opened within a short time as and when necessary.
(ii) and (iii) Facing the onslaught of the fifth wave of the epidemic, a great number of staff had to be recruited by the Security Bureau within very short period of time to take up the management work of CIFs constructed with the Central Government's support. Their works included transporting confirmed patients, inspecting facilities, managing supplies of resources, distributing meals and daily necessities, answering inquiries from persons under quarantine. Considering employees in many sectors, including tourism industry practitioners and sports tutors and coaches, suffered from loss of job or reduction in income under the impact of the epidemic, the Security Bureau used the fund earmarked for the Job Creation Scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund to recruit practitioners from these two sectors as Housekeeping Assistants for CIFs. On one hand, the recruitment could help the HKSAR Government to manage the CIFs constructed with the Central Government's support, while on the other hand it could relieve the financial difficulties of the practitioners with the offer of short-term job opportunities.
The Security Bureau started the recruitment exercise of Housekeeping Assistant in early March. Appointment was made on a non-civil service contract term basis with no ranking delineation. The contract lasted for two months. A monthly salary of $31,000 was offered to the post-holders as they are required to take up training on infection control and wear personal protective equipment while performing duties with infection risk and having direct contact with confirmed patients in infection control areas. Besides, they had to work in irregular hours and in shift to provide round-the-clock service. At the peak of the fifth wave of the epidemic in March this year, around 1 200 Housekeeping Assistants were deployed by the Security Bureau to assist in managing the CIFs constructed with the Central Government's support and the expenditure involved amounted to over $37 million (per month).
(2) The Government has not mobilised voluntary organisations to assist in managing the CIFs. According to the information provided by the Home Affairs Bureau, the Government provides, through the respective volunteer organisations, an honorarium to volunteers who have participated in the packing or distribution of anti-epidemic service bags for subsidising their expenses for food and transportation. The daily amount of the honorarium is $200 per person. The District Offices are currently arranging the release of the honorarium.
Note: Mainly for accommodating inbound persons who are tested positive during the "test-and-hold" arrangement at the airport or compulsory quarantine in designated quarantine hotels. As at June 10, only one CIF hotel is in operation.
Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:28
Issued at HKT 15:28