New measure not meant to divide society: Sophia Chan

Health Secretary Sophia Chan on Tuesday defended the government’s plan to deny unvaccinated people from entering venues like restaurants and schools if a fifth wave of Covid-19 infections hit Hong Kong, saying the measure is not meant to divide society.

She told a radio programme that getting inoculated is a free choice and conceded that some people are simply not medically fit to receive a jab.

However, Chan said barring those who haven’t been vaccinated from certain venues isn’t a punishment.

“I have noticed that some people may have that impression. But don’t be mistaken,” the health chief argued, saying it’s a public health practice to adjust epidemic-control measures based on vaccine take-ups.

She said people were annoyed that businesses were ordered to close during previous outbreaks, and authorities hope they wouldn’t have to do that again.

However, a caller to an RTHK programme said the government appears to be treating those who haven’t been inoculated as “aliens”.

“This is so irrational,” said a woman who gave her surname as Leung. She said she suffers from white coat syndrome and is worried that receiving a jab might trigger some “hidden illnesses.”

“The government failed to consider this group of people. Are they denying our human rights … barring us from entering schools and restaurants and treating us like an alien?” she questioned.

Meanwhile, infectious disease expert Joseph Tsang said although Hong Kong has had more than 28 days of zero local infections, it doesn’t mean the city is safe.

He pointed to a policeman who tested preliminary positive for the coronavirus on Monday, saying that shows that there might still be silent transmission in the community.

Tsang said current anti-epidemic measures alone aren’t enough to prevent future outbreaks and it’s key to build up herd immunity.

Separately, the minister in charge of the city’s vaccination programme, Patrick Nip, told RTHK that about 37,000 people made a booking for a jab on Monday.

The civil service chief said the figure was a new high and he hopes the trend could continue.