‘Home quarantine last resort if facilities are full’

Health Secretary Sophia Chan on Saturday said the government will consider ordering close-contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases to be isolated at home instead of sending them into quarantine camps if the facilities become too overwhelmed.

Her comments came as an advisor to the government on the pandemic said Hong Kong has entered the fifth wave of outbreaks, and there may be a need to extend the tightened social distancing measures beyond two weeks.

Chan described the city’s pandemic situation now is “critical,” noting there are multiple chains of transmission in the community, with some cases having contracted the virus from unknown sources.

She told a Commercial Radio programme that since the Omicron variant could spread quickly, it could lead to a tight supply of quarantine facilities.

Chan said various holiday villages could be used as back ups, and three hotels have been designated for quarantine if rooms in Penny’s Bay run out, but all the facilities could be filled up quickly if more cases are confirmed.

She said authorities therefore need to consider adopting home quarantine for close-contacts as a last resort.

Meanwhile, Chinese University respiratory disease expert David Hui said the government should consider suspending school, and resuming work-from-home arrangements for civil servants, if more unlinked Covid cases emerge in the community.

The government pandemic advisor said current social distancing measures may have to stay longer, as there are a number of transmission chains and more time is needed to observe the pandemic situation.

Another government expert advisor, Lau Yu-lung, warned that there could be a “tsunami” of cases in this wave of outbreaks. He said more emphasis must be put into encouraging the elderly to get jabbed.