Expert doubts public ban for the unvaccinated

Respiratory medicine expert Leung Chi-chiu on Monday warned against barring unvaccinated people from public venues as a means to boost vaccination, saying this could lead to a backlash and even put elderly people and chronically ill patients at higher health risks.

Leung’s comments came after Civil Service Secretary, Patrick Nip, who is in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, said over the weekend that he would not rule out such restrictions.

But speaking on an RTHK programme, Leung said it would be understandable if the ban is imposed on entertainment venues, but not for places that people have to go every day.

“Entertainment venues are optional, unlike daily necessary services, so [such a ban] would not affect people too much and would be more reasonable. But if it involves necessary daily services, it becomes a mandatory measure. People may feel upset about it,” he said.

He also pointed to an eat-in ban last year aimed at reining in an outbreak, but eventually led to people buying take-aways and having their lunch outdoors.

“Like last year, when people still had to go to work, they had to have lunch. But when eating-in was banned, people had to squat in the street to eat. It was not a good phenomenon either,” he added.

Leung also said while most elderly people and chronically ill patients are fit for the jabs, such a ban may give them unnecessary stress and in turn affect their health.

“If they become too scared and too stressed, things can go wrong,” he warned.

He said it’s better for medical staff and experts to continue to explain to the public that only an “extremely small number of people” with unstable chronic conditions or acute diseases are unfit for the vaccines, and everyone else should go get the shots.