Situation at Penny’s Bay has improved: Sophia Chan

Health Secretary Sophia Chan said the operation of the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre has improved after authorities enhanced measures there in light of recent complaints.

People who’d undergone isolation at the quarantine facility reported various problems, such as unanswered hotline calls and a delay in release when Covid tests were not conducted according to schedule.

Speaking at a Legco meeting on Wednesday, Chan said the Penny’s Bay facility experienced issues after a recent influx.

The health minister noted that officials have since enhanced their measures, such as deploying an extra 400 staff, improving data entry and strengthening communication with those being quarantined.

“The situation has already improved because there are fewer people at Penny’s Bay. There are several hotels to help us divert the people, and because we changed the policy [regarding the quarantine period for close contacts of Covid patients] from 21 to 14 days,” she said.

Chan said officials are also in talks to arrange a fourth hotel to be used to quarantine close contacts.

Asked about the infection of two security guards at Penny’s Bay, the health minister said disinfection has been carried out and staff members have been reminded to have their meals separately.

Checks will also be conducted to make sure staff comply with infection-control rules, she said.

Roundtable lawmaker Michael Tien asked Chan why officials didn’t make it compulsory for people to hand over hamsters they’d bought after December 22 to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) after an outbreak at a pet shop.

Chan said officials hope people would take their own initiative.

“We strongly advise pet owners to [hand over their hamsters], and of course if there is any legal means, we can make it mandatory. But we believe everyone has to chip in in fighting the pandemic, and there are already pet owners who have called the AFCD to hand over their hamsters,” she said.

Chan reiterated the decision to cull the hamsters is aimed at minimising infection risks.