24th January 2020 – With the spread of Wuhan Pneumonia, confirmed cases have been reported in many countries. The first confirmed Wuhan Pneumonia case in Hong Kong appeared a few days ago, arriving by Highspeed Rail; followed by another confirmed case the same night. According to the latest figures from the Hospital Authority, 41 patients meeting the reporting criteria of Wuhan Pneumonia was received, and all cases originated from China. However, despite the travel blockade imposed by the Chinese Government on Wuhan at 10am yesterday, a large number of patients have spread throughout China and nearby regions due to the concealing and mishandling by the Chinese Government. While the Chinese Government remained silent, many more Chinese cities has fallen. As of 23rd January, travel blockade has since been imposed on more than 10 cities surrounding Wuhan, indicting the pneumonia is no longer controllable.
Under current situation, precautionary measures have been taken globally towards travellers from Wuhan: Taiwan refused entrance of travellers from Wuhan, North Korea closed its borders to all foreign travellers, Japan and Korea implemented additional inspections for travellers originated in Wuhan, and the Macau SAR stepped up its epidemic prevention measures immediately after receiving its first confirmed case. Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government refused to impose stricter border quarantine or imposed any form of border closures on epidemic-prone regions, and instead opted for implementing toll-free policy for small passenger vehicles on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. The HKSAR Government has not only shown its inability to govern, but also exposing Hong Kong citizens and visitors alike to immense risks; almost as if it is intentional to replicate the SARS tragedy in 2003.
Hong Kong’s public health care system, due to incompetent management by the government and the Hospital Authority, has long been over-burdened, even worsening in recent years. The management board of the Hospital Authority has been ignoring the pressure of frontline healthcare workers, and requested them to take up a large amount of administrative work, adding unnecessary stress to medical staff. The persistent lack of manpower, as well as the lack of hospital beds, forced patients to wait for a lengthy period of time before getting medical care; in particular, it is a common scene in the Department of General Medicine to be overloaded with patients on temporary beds. These problems have lasted for more than a few years, and lead directly to hygiene issues in the hospitals, medical errors due to exhaustion of staff. Hong Kong’s public healthcare system has been so overloaded that it cannot properly function if there is an epidemic.
A few days ago, Prof. Yi Guan, Chair of Emerging Viral Diseases Cluster Leader (Influenza and Infections of Public Health Significance) of Hong Kong University said during an interview that the Wuhan coronavirus had widely spread out of Wuhan, as the Chinese government had failed to contain the coronavirus outbreak in time. He also stated that it was no longer possible to conduct an epidemiology survey, and that it was highly possible for the outbreak of Wuhan coronavirus to infect more people than SARS in 2003. This proves that the Hong Kong Government must treat the potential pandemic with the highest anti-epidemic standards, just to have a chance of avoiding another SARS tragedy in Hong Kong.
Yet it is utterly disappointing when Dr. Chan Hon-yee, the Director of Health, publicly stated yesterday night that there was no need for the general public to wear masks in public if they experienced no symptoms; and that the thermometers installed at border entry points were sufficient to detect carriers of the coronavirus. Also, Chief Secretary of Administration Matthew Cheung claimed that the free pass policy of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge bear no risk as the traffic was low. The ridiculous opinions and disdainful attitudes of senior officials make it clear that government officials do not fully comprehend the severity of the Wuhan outbreak. There have been reports of patients showing little to no symptoms, without fever. This incompetence of government officials undoubtedly puts frontline medical professionals, employees in the service sector, as well as all Hong Kong citizens at risk.
With the government’s inaction, the citizens of Hong Kong have no choice but to save ourselves. We hereby calls on employers from all sectors to actively undertake corporate social responsibility, and work together to protect employees from the Wuhan Pneumonia. Hong Kong as a densely populated city with crowded work environment and peak hour traffic. Anti-epidemic measures is key to preventing an outbreak in the workplace, and corporate personnel policies are crucial to the fight against the Wuhan Pneumonia.
Hence, the Labour Unions jointly put forward the ‘Anti-Epidemic Five Demands’:
Employers must provide masks for employees and visitors;
Employers must cancel all business trips to mainland China;
Employers to allow a flexible work schedule for employees;
Employers to allow employees to work from home;
Prohibition of entry into Hong Kong of travellers originated in Mainland China, closure of all passenger borders to Mainland China, and suspension of all passenger traffic between Hong Kong and Mainland China until further notice.
Yesterday night, some labour unions have emailed different organizations to express their concern of the outbreak. The labour unions have formulated a list of practical anti-epidemic measures, and urged these organizations to take immediate action. Details to follow in future announcements by the unions.
Last but not least, labour unions stand firm together with medical professionals. We hereby calls on the government to implement border quarantine measures before 28th January, otherwise we would not rule out the upscale of actions, including industrial actions.
24 January 2020
21. 香港貿易 推銷及採購職工會