‘Public doctors not told about vaccine plan change’

The president of the Public Doctors’ Association, Tony Ling, said on Tuesday that health authorities didn’t consult them about the new requirement for medical workers to get vaccinated or pay for regular Covid-19 tests out of their own pocket.

Speaking on an RTHK programme, Ling noted that most staff understand the benefits of the jabs, and the vaccination rate among doctors is as high as 90 percent, but said the lack of long-term safety data is a concern for pregnant employees.

Ling said since there wasn’t much detail on testing locations and staff will have to take the tests in their free time, it’s going to be inconvenient for medical workers who can’t get inoculated.

Ling said he would follow up with the Hospital Authority about exemptions and the consequences colleagues might face if they fail to get regular tests.

Apart from health workers, the government is also requiring civil servants, teachers, airport workers and staff at designated quarantine hotels and care homes to get the jabs, unless they aren’t medically fit to do so.

Those who choose not to be vaccinated will have to pay for their own Covid tests unless they have medical proof that they cannot have the jabs.

Speaking on the same programme, Health Secretary Sophia Chan insisted the change in policy is for workers’ own good and also for the people they serve.

Chan also insisted it’s not yet the right time to relax social distancing measures although there haven’t been any new local infections for more than 50 days.

“We still need to push the vaccination rate up,” she said.

“Although the situation in Hong Kong is relatively stable, the external environment isn’t. The Delta variant is rampant in other places. That’s why we have to be very careful.”

Education Secretary Kevin Yeung, meanwhile, said he didn’t expect many schools to be able to resume full-day classes when the new academic year begins next month.

Officials have said full-day lessons can resume when 70 percent of staff and students are full vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Since kindergartens and primary school children are too young to get jabs, Yeung said whether they can resume full-day classes will depend on the vaccination rate in society.

Yeung said the government can’t keep subsiding people to get tested when they have already been offered free vaccines, adding that it’s not dangerous to be inoculated.