Legislative Council_Meeting-Motion: Guarding against the importation of COVID-19

MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese): Deputy President, I would like to thank Mr LAI Tung-kwok for proposing this motion so that Members can, by means of this debate, request the Government to implement immediately all feasible measures to build a solid line of defence to guard against the importation of cases and the resurgence of local infection, and strive for the resumption of quarantine-free travel as soon as possible, in order to ease people’s hardship and benefit people’s livelihood.

I support this motion. I do not want to repeat the many criticisms and comments that have been made recently about the Government’s policy of guarding against the importation of cases, especially the monitoring and enforcement of the exemption measures for Cathay Pacific crew members. As for the Government’s current anti-epidemic measures against the resurgence of local infection, including vaccination and the use of the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app (“LeaveHomeSafe”) to record people’s whereabouts, they are both voluntary and self-regulatory in nature, and can easily create loopholes in building an immune barrier.

When meeting with the press earlier, the Chief Executive responded to the incident in which a Cathay Pacific crew member went out in violation of restrictions, stressing that there would be no need for law enforcement officers in society if the public could be relied on to exercise self-discipline. She also cited the case of the cluster of Moon Palace in Festival Walk as an example. A number of diners had not responded to the Government’s appeal for testing, causing the Government to spend extra manpower and resources on tracing for days before the six diners who had lost contact could be found. In fact, if one of them had been infected, a number of transmission chains would have long emerged during the period when that diner was out of contact and the virus would have spread across the community.

Initially the Government launched “LeaveHomeSafe” without real-name registration and tracing function in order to encourage the public to use it. However, when entering catering premises, a large number of people would still rather fill in paper forms, use pre-paid SIM cards to download the app, or even use fake “LeaveHomeSafe”, creating many obstacles for epidemic prevention work. I believe that after the current wave of the epidemic, the public acceptance of the improved “LeaveHomeSafe” will significantly increase. In the middle of this month, 15 Honourable colleagues of the Legislative Council jointly signed a petition requesting the Government to implement real-name registration measures for “LeaveHomeSafe” and to draw reference from the practice in the Mainland to add a colour warning function similar to health codes, so as to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Such an approach warrants the careful study by the Government.

Another important epidemic preventive measure that relies on the voluntary efforts of the public but has achieved average effectiveness is vaccination. Initially, the public response to vaccination was lukewarm. Had the large commercial organizations not actively collaborated and injected resources into organizing lucky draws to encourage public participation, and had the Government not introduced a series of facilitation arrangements for vaccination, it would be difficult for the vaccination rate to reach a satisfactory level. But the vaccination rate among elderly had remained low. Nevertheless, after the Government announced the expansion of the coverage of the “vaccine bubble” after the Chinese New Year, as elderly persons worried that they would not be able to go out for dim sum, the vaccination rate of the group immediately went up. It shows that anti-epidemic measures must be decisive, otherwise the battle against the epidemic will only linger on.

As regards the resumption of quarantine-free travel to the Mainland as soon as possible, the Government should also pay attention to other factors that may affect the public. The conversion of the Hong Kong Health Code to the “Yuekang Code” is a necessary condition for the resumption of quarantine-free travel to the Mainland, and the Government has completed the preparatory work. To enable the public to familiarize themselves with the functions as early as possible, the system was opened to the public for registration last month, and mobile support stations have been set up in MTR stations across all 18 districts in Hong Kong. As at the beginning of this month, 720 000 people registered for the Hong Kong Health Code. However, it is a rather complicated process from account registration to the successful conversion to a green Hong Kong Health Code. First, the applicant has to fill in a series of personal information in the system. And if the information is correct, the applicant will receive an SMS message and have to log in to the system again to activate the account. Then, the applicant will upload the visit records to “LeaveHomeSafe” and, lastly, return to the Hong Kong Health Code system to apply for a green Hong Kong Health Code. The whole process consists of more than 10 steps. It also requires switches between the two systems and multiple logins, which are complicated for young people who are versed in computer or mobile phone operation, not to mention elderly persons and people who are not familiar with electronic devices. I believe it is difficult for them to complete the whole process. Although there are support staff to help them now, they will have to upload their own itinerary to obtain the health code after resumption of quarantine-free travel in the future. I believe these procedures will cause them considerable troubles.

In fact, be it the Hong Kong Health Code, “LeaveHomeSafe”, “iAM Smart” or other government systems―as I mentioned in a Chief Executive’s Question and Answer Session in the last term―they should all take into account the difficulties faced by users. The operation process should not be overly complicated. Now the function to convert the Hong Kong Health Code to “Yuekang Code” has not yet been launched. I am not sure if the procedures will be complicated as always. However, I hope that the Government will make enhancements to “LeaveHomeSafe” as soon as possible so that people can complete the conversion of health codes, which is a requisite for quarantine-free travel between the two places, on the app, so as to truly bring benefits and convenience to the people, instead of turning it into another obstacle for quarantine-free travel in the future.

I so submit. Thank you, Deputy President.