Health

Covid-19: End of enforced isolation could leave some Hong Kong workers without sick pay, union warns


Covid-19 isolation feature

With Covid patients in Hong Kong no longer required to isolate from Monday, a labour union representative has expressed concern that some workers will be denied paid sick leave if they contract the coronavirus.

medic medical covid covid-19 quarantine tsing yi isolation
Tsing Yi Covid-19 quarantine facility. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

From Monday, people who test positive for Covid-19 infection will not be issued with an isolation order, and those who test positive at home do not have to report their infection.

As a result, employees infected by Covid-19 must now obtain a doctor’s note before they can ask for paid sick leave.

Tam Kam-lin, the vice chairperson of the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, said the government should urge employers to recognise rapid Covid test results during a transitional period.

The labour sector representative told RTHK on Monday that people working in retail, services, transport or catering trades might lose their pay for the day – as well as their monthly attendance bonus – if they called in sick after contracting Covid-19.

“They could lose more than HK$1,000 or HK$2,000 for the month,” Tam said, adding they would have to cover their own medical fees by themselves and may not have paid sick leave.

“There is a chance that they may go to work even if they are sick,” Tam added.

Closure of designated Covid clinics

Meanwhile, all of the city’s designated Covid-19 clinics were suspended from Monday, too, as Covid patients are allowed to seek treatment at general out-patient clinics and from private doctors. Designated Covid clinics were set up during the fifth wave to treat those with mild or no symptoms in an effort to relieve pressure on overburdened healthcare services.

The Hospital Authority said it has reserved a daily quota of around 2,000 at its general out-patient clinics for those who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

While clinics in some areas have already filled their quota for Sunday, the Chief Manager of Primary and Community Services of the Hospital Authority Tony Ha said they have around 1,000 extra quotas for emergency use.

covid19 covid shau kei wan clinic
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Shau Kei Wan clinic has been converted to a designated Covid-19 facility as the city struggles to battle the fifth wave of the pandemic. File photo: Ben Marans/HKFP.

Ha told the same radio programme that some 1,000 Covid patients per day have visited designated clinics or had virtual consultations in the past week. “We think the overall quota is enough to handle the demand,” he said.

Until February 28, Covid patients will be able to stay at a community isolation centre for up to seven days if they wish.

Students are still required to conduct daily rapid tests until the end of February, but the test requirement has been scrapped for teachers and other school staff.

Government medical advisor Lau Yu-lung said on Friday that the government could gradually scrap the daily test requirement for students, as well as the outdoor mask mandate, if no large outbreak is observed in the two weeks after the Lunar New Year holiday.

Lau said the government can axe outdoor mask wearing as soon as mid-February if that is the case, and get rid of the indoor mask mandate at the start of March.

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