Experts not too positive on health code

Finance | Wallis Wang 14 Aug 2020

A proposed health code system to allow "healthy" residents to dine in at restaurants at any time could see worsening cross infections, experts warn.

This is because if people who have tested negative - but have potential exposure history or mild symptoms - are exempted it may cause large-scale cross infections that will worsen the epidemic, respiratory disease expert Leung Chi-chiu said.

The system, proposed by pro-establishment lawmakers, is likened to a three-color health code in the mainland, which is generated based on people's state of health, travel history and contact with patients.

But Leung, who chairs the Hong Kong Medical Association's advisory committee on communicable diseases, said it is mainly used for tracking people's travel history.

Leung said it is different from the system proposed in Hong Kong, which allows residents with negative test results to be exempted from some restrictions.

Hong Kong University microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said a health code system for all residents requires weekly tests for seven million people, which is not feasible.

He said the scheme would be unfair to poor people who cannot afford regular tests.

Leung said at the moment the top priority is to curb the community transmission and prevent the import of new cases.

Pro-establishment lawmakers met Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung last Friday, urging the government to speed up the implementation of a universal testing program and launch a health code system.

They said the government should learn from the mainland and allow healthy residents to be exempted from some restrictions.

Lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok, chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, said many restaurants face imminent closure, and the exhibition sector is suffering.

Lo said Hongkongers will suffer from the economic recession if the government keeps tightening control measures instead of allowing economic activities.

"If all necessary economic activities are forced to stop in order to avoid risks, what will happen to Hong Kong?" Lo said.

Food-delivery service platform Deliveroo has said more than 50 percent of some 8,000 small and independent restaurants it has partnered with are facing the prospect of immediate business suspension.

It urged the government to provide financial assistance to the restaurants and appealed to landlords to help out by waiving rent for four months.

"Many predict that if the current situation continues, within the next three months they will be forced to permanently close or go bankrupt," a Deliveroo spokesman said.

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