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Saturday, Apr 01, 2023

Plea for guidelines on going out with Covid

Authorities should give clear guidelines to operators of restaurants and private medical clinics on handling Covid sufferers to avoid discrimination while minimizing transmission risks to other people including virus-vulnerable children and seniors, legislator Chan Hoi-yan says.
On Wednesday, Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Ricky Chu warned that restaurateurs and doctors could be breaching the Disability Discrimination Ordinance if they turned away people with Covid.

But Election Committee constituency member Chan, chairwoman of the Legislative Council's Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene, said many eateries and clinics have limited space.

If an infected person was in a room with others, she said, Covid could be spread.

"The waiting area in certain private clinics in public housing estates is really small," Chan noted. "And the doctors are general practitioners, meaning there may be pregnant women, children under three and chronically-ill seniors queuing too. Is it appropriate to let a person who has tested positive to be in the same room with these people?"

So Chan called on health authorities for clear guidelines so a balance could be struck in protecting everyone.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, said operators try to avoid conflicts with customers. "We strongly advise people with obvious Covid symptoms to stay at home," he said, though "so far we haven't seen a lot of symptomatic people [going to restaurants]."

Meanwhile, Executive Council member and former health secretary Ko Wing-man opposed setting up an independent inquiry into authorities' handling of Covid.

An independent probe would waste time and effort with "authorities' normal operations paralyzed," Ko said.

He said health experts' suggestion to set up an independent inquiry had come with good intentions, but those experts "should contemplate whether basing everything on science is the best anti-epidemic principle" and whether people offering their own versions of events were wanted.

On people pointing to an independent inquiry held on the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003, Ko pointed out that Covid has lasted much longer than SARS.

Outgoing National People's Congress standing committee member Tam Yiu-chung said that a review could be done by government departments.

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