SEE views implementation of air change requirement in catering premises (with photos/video)

     The Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, and the Working Group on air change or air purifiers in catering premises yesterday evening (July 25) conducted a visit to learn about the measures on ventilation and exhaust systems taken by an operator of a catering premises in response to a cluster of COVID-19 infection cases that emerged earlier. Mr Tse also expressed his support for the Working Group. 
     Since customers take off their masks while eating in catering premises, there are certain risks of virus transmission. The Government stipulated in March last year a requirement on air change or air purifiers to be complied with by dine-in catering premises in the directions in relation to catering business under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F). Mr Tse and the Working Group established for the smooth implementation of the requirement, together with representatives of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), yesterday visited a Kwun Tong hotpot restaurant where a cluster of infection cases had previously emerged, so as to acquire an understanding of the improvement measures made in relation to its ventilation systems by the qualified ventilation contractors engaged by the premises operator after the incident in order to comply with the air change requirement under Cap. 599F and the licence condition issued under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132) and its subsidiary legislation (in regard to the hotpot restaurant, the licence condition requires an air change per hour of not less than 15 times in the seating area).
     Mr Tse said, "The Working Group has been maintaining communication with the trade in a professional manner, and provided valuable advice for the successful implementation of the ventilation requirement in dine-in catering premises under Cap. 599F. This has earned recognition from all sectors of the community. The professional opinions and support of the Working Group have played a pivotal role in and significantly contributed to the prevention and control of the epidemic. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Chairman and Members of the Working Group for taking time out of their busy schedules to assist the trade and the Government to rise above the challenges of the epidemic. I am in full support of their work."
     The Chairman of the Working Group, Professor Yuen Pak-leung, said, "The Working Group issued a work report in December last year, analysing and summarising the effectiveness of the implementation measures. In May this year, after the Government further relaxed social distancing measures, the number of confirmed cases increased progressively, and the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) resumed the tracing work for the catering premises with clusters of infection cases. From May to July 22 this year, among the 18 000 catering premises or so, a total of 462 catering premises had been issued with compulsory testing notices due to having been visited by individual confirmed cases. Among them, only 15 premises were considered by the CHP as being involved in an outbreak. Most of the cases involved failure to execute air change measures (including switching on, operating, repairing or maintaining relevant systems and equipment)properly, and there could be other contributing factors (such as whether social distancing measures had been strictly observed or not) as well. While air change measures cannot fully eliminate the possibility of virus transmission, having a good ventilation system is still one of the internationally recognised measures that can contribute towards lowering the risks of virus transmission.
     He continued, "The Working Group listened to the reports of the relevant departments in a timely manner on the 15 catering premises with clusters of infection cases, then discussed and analysed the operation situation of the ventilation systems in the premises, and examined whether it could propose room for further improvement. For example, on maintaining good operation and maintenance of the ventilation systems in premises, a routine action checklist and a video on ventilation systems and air purifiers have been produced earlier for reference by the trade. The Working Group hopes that everyone can work together to curb the spread of the epidemic."
     During the visit to the hotpot restaurant, the Working Group suggested to the premises operator that apart from strengthening the fresh air system and the exhaust system in response to the epidemic, it should also, on an ongoing basis, keep switching on and operating the relevant systems and equipment, and carry out routine inspection of as well as regular repair and maintenance for them.
     The Working Group comprises expert representatives coming from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, including public health, engineering (including mechanical engineering and building services engineering), surveying and ventilation (including the ventilation system works and air-conditioning and refrigeration fields). Representatives from the FEHD and the EMSD serve as observers on the Working Group. Since its establishment in March last year, the Working Group, guided by science-based principles, has communicated with various sectors in an open, transparent, fair and just manner, and has made recommendations to attain good ventilation outcomes. Apart from encouraging about 18 000 catering premises to register their air change and/or air purifiers in the initial stage, the Working Group has been closely monitoring the developments of the epidemic and assisting catering premises affected by the epidemic to adopt appropriate ventilation, exhaust and/or air purification measures and more.
     The specific work of the Working Group has included the compilation of the information on installation of air purifiers meeting the specified specifications, the Guide on Compliance with Requirement on Air Change/Air Purifiers in Seating Areas of Dine-in Catering Premises, a work report, frequently asked questions and answers, a routine action checklist on ventilation systems and air purifiers, teaching videos on different topics, and more, and has uploaded them to the FEHD website. The Working Group has also held a number of meetings and webinars with relevant trades and other stakeholders (including representatives from the catering trade, air purifier suppliers, specialist ventilation works contractors, the hotel trade and the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong), and has conducted inspections of catering premises (including bars, Chinese restaurants, Hong Kong-style restaurants and hotel restaurants).

Ends/Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Issued at HKT 14:53