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LCQ19: Community isolation and treatment facilities
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Health, Professor Lo Chung-mau, in the Legislative Council today (May 3):
     To cope with the fifth wave of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 epidemic in Hong Kong, the HKSAR Government, with the support of the Central Government, has built community isolation and treatment facilities at nine‍ locations (including eight facilities the construction of which was funded by‍ the HKSAR Government (i.e. Mobile Cabin Facilities in Tsing‍ Yi, ‍San‍ Tin,‍ Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities Island of the Hong‍ Kong-‍Zhuhai-‍Macao Bridge, Fanling, Hung Shui Kiu and Yuen Long, as well as community isolation facilities (CIFs) in Kai Tak and Phases 5 and 6 of Penny's Bay), and the Emergency Hospital and Mobile Cabin Facility which were funded by the Central Government and located in the Lok Ma Chau Loop). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the following information on each of the aforesaid facilities the construction of which was funded by the HKSAR Government: construction costs, operating costs, staffing establishment and expenditure on salaries, number of days of use, number of beds, number of admissions, occupancy rate, and number of vacant days;
(2) given that most of the sites in the Lok Ma Chau Loop were used for the construction of CIFs and the Emergency Hospital earlier on, whether the relevant arrangements have affected the construction progress of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, and whether the Government has to make compensation therefor; if so, of the reasons for having to make compensation and the amount of compensation involved;
(3) whether, after the aforesaid community isolation and treatment facilities are decommissioned, it is still necessary to arrange manpower to manage such facilities; if so, of the relevant staffing establishment and expenditure;
(4) given that in reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council in respect of the Estimates of Expenditure 2023-2024, the Government indicated that the Deputy Financial Secretary has been tasked with carrying out a review of the future arrangement of the community isolation and treatment facilities, of the progress of such review; and
(5) of the Government's long-term plans on measures to prevent infectious diseases; whether it will retain some of the aforesaid community isolation and treatment facilities to cope with the future outbreak of infectious diseases in the community?
     In consultation with the Deputy Financial Secretary's Office, the Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau, the Security Bureau (SB), the Development Bureau and the Department of Health (DH), the consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Kenneth Lau is as follows:
(1), (3) and (5)
     Hong Kong was severely affected by the fifth wave of the epidemic starting in early 2022. Hong Kong urgently needed more isolation, treatment and related facilities to cope with the demand for isolation and treatment of a large number of confirmed patients. With the support of the Central Government, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government constructed community isolation and treatment facilities at nine locations respectively, including the Emergency Hospital and Mobile Cabin Facility in the Lok Ma Chau Loop which were funded by and constructed with assistance of the Central Government.
     Except for the community isolation and treatment facilities in the Lok Ma Chau Loop which were constructed under the Central Government's support, the HKSAR Government was responsible for the construction and costs of building the community isolation and treatment facilities at the other eight locations. The construction of these facilities was completed in succession from March to June last year. The settlement of contracts is still in progress, and details of the works expenditure are still pending confirmation and consolidation.
     After the completion and commissioning of the relevant facilities, the SB, having regard to the epidemic developments and the HKSAR Government's anti-epidemic policies, had turned the isolation facilities into standby mode or closed them in a timely manner. The Penny's Bay Community Isolation Facility (CIF), which ceased operation on March 1, 2023, was the last CIF to close in Hong Kong. The CIFs have served over 240 000 COVID-19 patients in total, with the occupancy rate of individual CIFs reaching up to 90 per cent.
     The work focus of the SB in using the aforementioned facilities was to speed up the admission of confirmed patients to the CIFs through a comprehensive monitoring of the availability of isolation units. The SB does not maintain breakdown of statistics on, among others, the headcount of patients admitted to individual CIFs.
     Breakdown of expenditures incurred by CIFs that were borne by the HSKAR Government from 2022 to January 31, 2023, is set out below:
Item Expenditure
($ million)
(i)  Meals 209.2
(ii)  Repair and maintenance 17.6 
(iii) Security, cleansing and disinfection services 1,052.9 
(iv) Utilities and specialist supplies 102.6 
(v)  Furniture and equipment 8.8 
Sub-total: 1,391.1
(vi) Salary expenditure for staff operating CIFs  
a. Civil Aid Service 226.8
b. Auxiliary Medical Service 50.1
Sub-total: 276.9
Total: 1,668.0

     Following the HKSAR Government's lifting of isolation arrangements for the COVID-19 epidemic and the full resumption of normalcy, the aforementioned CIFs have ceased operation, with only a minority of them put into standby mode. The manpower and resources involved are those minimally required to maintain essential security and cleansing services and to ensure the safety of the facilities.
     To enhance the overall management ability to prepare for and respond to public health crises, the DH has formulated contingency plans, conducts exercises and drills, and liaises closely with local stakeholders, health authorities in the Mainland and other places, the World Health Organization as well as other international public health agencies. In the meantime, having experienced three years of the COVID-19 epidemic, the HKSAR Government will consolidate experience from the anti‑epidemic efforts on various fronts so as to refine the contingency plans in preparation for anti-epidemic needs in the future.
(2) and (4)
     The Government is conducting detailed analysis and study concerning the future arrangements of community isolation and treatment facilities. Specific details will be announced timely once decisions are made.
     Among others, to make good use of resources, the Hospital Authority has started from late April this year providing day services at the Central Government-Aided Emergency Hospital in the Lok Ma Chau Loop and launched the Ambulatory Diagnostic Radiology Service Pilot Programme. Patients with suitable clinical conditions are invited to receive radiological diagnostic services at the Emergency Hospital so as to relieve the pressure on radiology services in public hospitals.
     For the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park (HSITP) in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, it will be developed in two phases. The Legislative Council has approved funding to support the Main Works Package 1 and the Batch 1 construction works of Phase 1 of the HSITP, involving eight buildings in total. The Main Works Package 1, which mainly covers the site formation and infrastructure works, commenced in July 2021 in phases. As for the construction of buildings, the construction works of the first three buildings have commenced and are expected to be completed in phases from end of 2024 as scheduled.
Ends/Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Issued at HKT 16:10
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