Hong Kong officials must receive vaccine or fund fortnightly tests

By on 20/08/2021 | Updated on 20/08/2021
From the end of August, government employees in the high-density city must receive vaccinations or pay for regular COVID tests. Picture by Andrii Makukha

The Hong Kong government has extended its vaccinations policy to back office workers, and now requires every government employee to get vaccinated or undertake fortnightly PCR tests.

From 1 September, all staff who haven’t either received a first vaccine dose or provided evidence of a medical exemption must take regular tests at Community Testing Centres – in their own time, and at their own expense.

“Ample time has been provided for government employees to receive vaccination and the arrangement of vaccination leave has also been introduced a few months ago. According to the latest information on applications for vaccination leave… 70 per cent of civil servants have received their first dose of a vaccine,” a spokesman for the Civil Service Bureau said.
 
“If individual government employees choose not to receive vaccination out of personal choice but not medical reasons, it is unreasonable for the Government to expend public money on their PCR tests for a long period of time.”

A policy ratchet

The government has required some frontline staff to accept vaccines or take fortnightly tests since the end of May, extending the roles covered by the policy in July. Under the new policy, staff with a medical exemption certificate will continue to receive free tests, but all others will have to pay for them.

“All government employees have an obligation to get vaccinated. It is also their responsibility of contributing to a healthy working environment and not posing themselves as a risk to co-workers and the public,” the spokesman said. 

Prior to the announcement, the Hong Kong Free Post published excerpts from an internal government document outlining the policy. Leung Chau-ting, chairperson of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, told the Free Post that he regretted that unions had not been consulted on the change.

Many union members “said it’s as if the government wants to boost vaccination rates, and that’s why the put civil servants on the spot,” said Leung, adding that those with long-term illnesses and pregnant women find it difficult to secure medical exemption certificates.

About Matt Ross

Matt is a journalist and editor specialising in public sector management, policymaking and service delivery. He was the editor of Civil Service World 2008-14, serving an audience of senior UK officials; and the features editor of Regeneration & Renewal 2002-08, covering urban regeneration, economic growth and community development. He has also been a motoring and travel journalist, and now combines his role as editorial director of Global Government Forum with communications consultancy, marketing and journalism work for publishers, public sector unions and private sector suppliers to government.

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