Go to main content
LCQ4: Preparatory work for coping with an outbreak of the epidemic
     ​Following is a question by the Hon Chan Pui-leung and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):
     There are views that although the Coronavirus Disease 2019 epidemic has now subsided, there is still a risk of an outbreak of the epidemic in the wake of the relaxation of social distancing measures and entry restrictions, coupled with the emergence of mutant strains. Regarding the preparatory work for coping with an outbreak of the epidemic, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that there are still imported cases from time to time currently, whether the Government has reviewed the effectiveness of the measures to guard against the importation of cases; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) given that volunteers from a number of district organisations and community groups took the initiative to assist the Government in distributing supplies when the fifth wave of the epidemic was severe, whether the Government will, in mobilising social forces to fight the epidemic in the future, devolve some of the decision-making powers to district units which are smaller in size and have greater flexibility, so that anti-epidemic work can be carried out in a down-to-earth manner; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that the Government appointed an expert committee in 2003 to conduct a review on the Government's work in handling and controlling the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (commonly known as "SARS"), but some of the recommendations put forward by the expert committee have not yet been implemented, whether the Government will review afresh the recommendations of the expert committee, prepare a review report on the Government's current epidemic prevention work, and formulate a contingency plan for epidemic prevention; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?
     Adhering to the pursuit of "dynamic zero infection", the Government continues to implement the anti-epidemic strategy of "preventing the importation of cases and the resurgence of domestic infections", and focuses on "three reductions, three focuses and one priority", which means focusing on reducing deaths, severe cases and infections, highlighting key groups of people, organisations and premises, and according priority to the elderly. We aim to build a stronger city-wide protection barrier against the virus, thereby allowing our society to make steady strides along the path to normalcy.
     In consultation with the Home Affairs Bureau and the Hospital Authority (HA), my reply to the various parts of the question raised by the Hon Chan Pui-leung is as follows:
(1) As the global pandemic persists, and in view of the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant, the detection of imported cases among inbound persons is unavoidable. The Government continues to prevent the importation of cases under the policy direction of "dynamic zero infection" and maintains stringent inbound prevention and control measures, which aim to, on the premise of the proper management of importation risks, allow Hong Kong to maintain contact with overseas places while rigorously guarding against imported cases from entering the local community. In order to be allowed to board for Hong Kong, generally persons coming to Hong Kong from overseas places must be fully vaccinated and hold a recognised vaccination record; hold a negative result proof of COVID-19 test conducted within 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure; and hold a confirmation of room reservation at a suitable designated quarantine hotel (DQH).
     In addition to the boarding requirements above, all inbound persons are subject to "test-and-hold" at the airport upon arrival, followed by transfer to DQHs in designated transport under closed-loop management for compulsory quarantine of at least seven days, with no option for home quarantine. Relevant inbound persons are also subject to multiple tests during the period. Any confirmed case detected during "test-and-hold" or in DQHs will be transferred to a community isolation facility hotel for isolation or sent to public hospital facilities for treatment and monitoring. For inbound persons eligible for early discharge from quarantine after completion of seven days of compulsory quarantine, they would have been tested negative for 10 consecutive times, including the pre-departure test. Even so, they are still subject to self-monitoring for seven days, and compulsory nucleic acid tests on the ninth and 12th days of arrival at Hong Kong. Since April, the vast majority of imported cases have been detected during "test-and-hold" or compulsory quarantine in DQHs. This shows that, on the premise of the proper management of importation risks, the relevant inbound prevention and control measures are effective in preventing imported cases from entering the community.
     The Government will continue to closely monitor the epidemic situation of different places, and will consider under the risk-based principle factors such as epidemic situation in particular places, testing rate, vaccination rate, volume of arrivals and actual imported cases, as well as taking into account the developments of the local epidemic situation and relevant socio-economic factors, to adjust the boarding, quarantine and testing requirements for arrivals from relevant places as the situation warrants.
(2)  In the face of the raging epidemic, the community is united to fight the virus. Among them, many sectors of our society including local organisations and non-governmental organisations, clansman organisations, charity groups, volunteers, uniformed groups, youth organisations, religious groups and ethnic minorities service organisations, etc, have been actively responding to the Government's call to participate in the packaging and distribution of anti-epidemic service bags. The Home Affairs Bureau and Home Affairs Department are now stocktaking the experience gained during the relevant operation for providing reference to the Government in planning similar activities in the future.
(3) After the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, the Government established the Expert Committee to conduct a review on the management and control of the epidemic, as well as identify lessons to be learned to better prepare Hong Kong for any future outbreaks. Over the years, the Government and the HA have made efforts to optimise the healthcare system in Hong Kong with reference to the recommendations of the Expert Committee. Apart from the setting up of the Infectious Diseases Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital, infectious disease facilities in nine major acute hospitals have also been strengthened. In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the HA also converted some general wards into temporary isolation wards and established a number of designated hospitals during the fifth wave. Together with the original isolation beds, a total of about 11 500 beds could be provided for receiving COVID-19 patients.
     In addition, having experienced the SARS epidemic, the HA has already formulated response plans for communicable diseases with public health significance, and established a rigorous monitoring mechanism to identify and arrange suspected infected patients to receive isolation treatment in hospitals as soon as possible, so as to prevent community transmission. At the same time, a series of measures on infection control guidelines and training, information dissemination as well as occupational safety and health have also been implemented. The HA will review anti-epidemic measures, adjust response plans and conduct drills with relevant departments with reference to latest international recommendations and expert opinions in order to be prepared.
     Over the past two years, we have been conducting periodic reviews of our experience in combating the epidemic, listening to the views of experts and different sectors in society, and continuously optimising our anti-epidemic measures, manpower and capabilities. At the same time, we closely monitor the epidemic situation and formulate policies as well as preparedness plans in order to prepare for an outbreak or the arrival of the next wave. The Government is open to conducting a timely review and formulating future anti-epidemic contingency plans after the pandemic.
     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:30
Today's Press Releases