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LCQ19: Quarantine arrangements for elderly persons at residential care homes for elderly
     Following is a question by the Hon Doreen Kong and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):


     Regarding the quarantine arrangements for elderly persons at residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) who have been classified as close contacts of confirmed patients of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the total number of elderly persons who had been classified as close contacts and admitted, between May and November this year, to some of the exhibition halls of the AsiaWorld-Expo which have been temporarily used as a quarantine facility for residents of RCHEs (AWE quarantine facility) and managed by the Social Welfare Department, and set out in a table on a monthly basis the relevant bed occupancy rate, as well as the numbers of elderly persons who became confirmed patients and those who died while undergoing quarantine;

(2) of the staffing establishment of the AWE quarantine facility (including the numbers of healthcare personnel and care workers who possess professionally qualifications), and the manning ratio for taking care of the elderly persons;

(3) whether currently there is adequate manpower in the AWE quarantine facility to help mobility-handicapped elderly persons in taking a bath, and whether there are adequate bathrooms provided for elderly persons to take a bath (including those bathrooms for mobility-handicapped elderly persons);

(4) given that the Government has recently shortened the days of quarantine from seven days to five days for residents at RCHEs who have been classified as close contacts, whether the authorities have correspondingly enhanced the relevant manpower and transport arrangements, so as to facilitate RCHEs to bring back their residents;

(5) given that currently the vaccination rate for the third dose of COVID-19 vaccines among elderly persons at RCHEs has exceeded 80 per cent, providing elderly persons with an immunity barrier, whether the authorities will consider afresh letting elderly persons at RCHEs undergo quarantine in situ, so as to save them the trouble of travelling to and from quarantine facilities; and

(6) given that recently there are still members of the public seeking help from me and indicating that they are unable to learn, via the RCHEs concerned, about the situation of some quarantined elderly persons, whether the authorities have set up a hotline for enquiries by family members and whether relevant guidelines have been provided for RCHEs?



     In consultation with the Health Bureau and the Fire Services Department (FSD), a consolidated reply to the question raised is as follows:

(1) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) is currently operating a temporary quarantine centre (QC) at AsiaWorld-Expo, providing a total of 1 080 quarantine beds for residents of residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) and residential care homes for persons with disabilities (RCHDs) who are classified as close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients. If they become confirmed cases during quarantine, the Department of Health (DH) will conduct assessments and the SWD will arrange their transfer to hospitals or holding centres in a timely manner to receive treatment and care in accordance with the severity of their symptoms and health conditions.

     Since May 2022 (as of November 23), the QC has admitted a total of 12 076 residential care home (RCH) residents. The highest single-day occupancy rate is 87 per cent. No RCH residents passed away during quarantine. The number of beds in the QC, occupancy rate, and the number of close contacts becoming confirmed cases during quarantine are tabulated below:
Month Number of beds in QC Occupancy rate (%) Number of close contacts becoming confirmed cases during quarantine
May 858 3 7
June 640 47 42
July 960 34 134
August 1 180 68 324
September 1 080 25 254
October 1 080 36 240
November (Note) 1 080 67 490
Note: As at November 23, 2022

(2) Care teams hired by the SWD provide round-the-clock care services for the confinees while medical staff from the DH and the Hospital Authority (HA) conduct medical surveillance and provide medical support. The care teams provide personal and nursing care services for the confinees, including feeding, maintaining personal hygiene (body wiping, changing diapers, face and mouth cleaning, etc.) and taking prescribed medicine. In addition, the care teams check the health conditions of the confinees every four hours, including checking their body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate and blood oxygen level.

     At present, each care team, comprising a total of 10 nurses, 14 health workers and 68 personal care workers on duty for the two shifts every day, is responsible for 270 quarantine beds. While the care team nurses are required to possess relevant professional qualifications, the health workers must be duly registered in order to be qualified to perform duties at the QC.

(3) Shower facilities and shower trolleys are available at the QC for the confinees to use. To minimise the risk of virus transmission through aerosols during the bathing process, care staff would only arrange bathing for those in need in accordance with the instructions of medical staff. Care staff would use warm disinfectant body wipes to clean the confinees' body regularly in order to ensure personal hygiene.

(4) In view of the Government's recent shortening of the quarantine period for RCHE residents who are classified as close contacts from seven days to five days, the FSD and the SWD have strengthened their manpower and resources to transport RCH residents to and from quarantine facilities. The FSD has deployed ambulance personnel of the Special Support Unit to handle these evacuation operations and redeployed fire personnel with First Responders qualification and ambulance personnel from other non-operational units to join the operations. The FSD would also mobilise different types of ambulance to strengthen its transportation capacity. The FSD will continue to communicate and cooperate with the SWD, St John Ambulance Brigade, the Auxiliary Medical Service and the HA to enhance efficiency.

(5) RCHs are communal living environments. It would be easy for the virus to spread quickly within the RCH concerned once there is an infected RCH resident. Given that RCH residents are mostly elderly or frail persons, their risk of having severe symptoms or death if infected is still higher than that of normal persons, despite having a significantly increased vaccination rate. Hence, in order to protect target groups, the Government deployed considerable amount of manpower and resources to set up QCs for RCH residents who required care and are classified as close contacts.

     The Government will, having regard to the latest development of the epidemic, consider all relevant factors (including the environment and manpower arrangement of RCHs) and consult the health authority when appropriate to review the quarantine arrangement of RCHs.

(6) The SWD has all along been requesting RCHEs and RCHDs to answer enquiries raised by family members of RCH residents. Upon RCH residents' admission to the QC, the SWD would notify their family members and clearly state that they could enquire the conditions of the confinees through the RCHs concerned. Moreover, the SWD staff and the care teams will make their best effort to assist the confinees to stay connected with their family members by phone or video call.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:20
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