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Society

Desperate for drugs during the lockdown in China

Liu Tian, 27, in Changchun, Jilin province, suffers from a major depressive disorder. She has been off her medication for ten days since the city went into lockdown due to COVID-19 in March. Her medicine is only available at three pharmacies in the city far away from her home, and she cannot get it delivered. She tried to contact epidemic prevention staff in the community and the hospital for help. The community staff issued her an emergency medication certificate, but she could not go to the hospital because of local traffic control.  As a result, she had headaches, was irritated and emotionally unstable. She tried calling the hospital’s emergency number but was told that they were only responsible for emergency care and not prescriptions. “I don't want to keep looking for medicine anymore because I'm afraid of being rejected again,” Liu said. “When I was at my worst, I even thought about committing suicide.” Beijing has been sticking to the "dynamic zero tolerance" strategy for Covid. That means even a few positive cases would trigger a lockdown followed by large-scale testing.  During the lockdown, no one can travel and delivery services are limited. Chronically ill patients like Liu Tian face difficulties purchasing medications. They turn to local community staff, volunteers, and netizens for help. Cheng Yulong, 51, has diabetes. “My blood sugar level kept rising, and I was really desperate. I cannot solely rely on the blood sugar-lowering medications because they are not as effective as insulin,” he said. When the lockdown started in Changchun in early March, he had to stay at the construction site where he had been working for almost 30 days, but he only carried a limited amount of insulin.  The insulin Cheng needed was sold out in the nearby pharmacies. He sought help from community …

Society

Surviving smart prison

Immigration detainees concern groups complain of intrusive use of technology. What is a smart prison Hong Kong’s first smart prison, Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution (TTGCI) began operation in Sept 2021. Among the 160 inmates, 67 were immigration detainees. According to the Development of Smart Prison document presented to the Legislative Council by the Correctional Services Department in 2019. TTGCI operates a Passage Surveillance System. All prisoners have to wear a smart wristband. Officers can track the prisoners and are alerted if anyone strays from a designated route.  Inmates have to wear a tracker that looks like a black digital watch without a screen. It monitors heart rate, physical conditions and medical needs. It also alerts offers of any suicide or self-harm attempt. Why are the immigration detainees there?  Anna Tsui is a member of the CIC Detainees’ Rights Concern Group, an organisation that tries to improve immigration detainees’ living conditions and fight against unlawful detention inside the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC). “At least three of the immigration detainees inside TTGCI told me that the officers didn’t explain the functions and the purposes of wearing the black wristbands in advance. They asked the officers if they could remove the wristbands and the answer was ‘no’.”  In an email response to The Young Reporter, the Correctional Services Department said that “upon admission to TTGCI, information leaflets explaining the function of the smart wristband are provided to detainees. Detainees may ask on-duty staff if they have doubts.” As of  Dec. 2021, there were about 14,000 people who were refused entry into Hong Kong. These so-called non-refoulement claimants include illegal migrants or people who had overstayed their visas. Among them, 11,000 have had their claims rejected but 9,000 of them have applied for judicial reviews  and of those,  300 were detained …

Society

Government distributes COVID-19 rapid test kits

Starting from today, the Home Affairs Department will distribute COVID-19 rapid test kits to people who live or work in districts where the sewage has tested positive for the coronavirus. Residents, cleansing workers and property management employees working in Kwai Tong, Sha Tin, Sham Shui Po, Eastern District, Kwai Chung and Wong Tai Sin can get the test kits in the relevant designated estates.  The government encourages people in those areas who are at risk of infection to get tested, in order to achieve the government’s goal of "early identification, early isolation and early treatment". Wong Ka-lok, 58, a resident who lives in Sau Mau Ping Estate  received the test kits after waiting for only five minutes.  “I am happy with the arrangement because there is enough staff to help us,” Wong said.  Lee Yu-mei, a 66-year-old cleaning worker who works in Chai Wan, Siu Sai Wan Estate. His company demands employees to undergo regular COVID-19 testing. “I hate doing the COVID-19 rapid tests because it makes me feel so anxious waiting for the test result,” Lee said. “I understand that being a cleaning worker is a high-risk job and I may be easily exposed to the virus. That’s why I will do the test.” People who test positive with the rapid test kits can dial the government's 24-hour hotline for "persons tested positive with rapid antigen tests in areas with positive sewage testing results" for assistance, the government stated in a press release today.  Also, officials advise infected people with severe symptoms, such as prolonged fever of 38 degree Celsius or shortness of breath, to dial 999 for an ambulance so that they can go to hospital.

Society

Implementation of vaccine pass is in use

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Phoebe Law、Lokman YuenEdited by: Jenny Lam、Jayde Cheung
  • 2022-02-25

From Thursday, visitors to a variety of public spaces must produce a vaccine pass this include shopping malls, wet markets and restaurants. Hong Kongers hold different views towards the new implementation.

Society

Vaccine pass kicks in at public venues

From today, visitors to government revenues and 23 categories of premises, including restaurants, malls, supermarkets, and wet markets must scan the Leave Home Safe app.  The policy applies to everyone aged 12 years and above. The app sounds an alarm if the phone does not show proof of vaccination. Staff at these premises are then required to inform the visitors or ask for proof of exemption. Chan Chui-san, 58, thought it was cumbersome to use the vaccine pass.  "The restaurant needs to scan my QR code again after I have scanned  the "Leave Home Safe" app, but the scanning equipment in some restaurants are not sensitive, and they wasted my time," Chan said. The scheme will be phased in so that people have ample time to receive a second or third dose of the vaccine. But from 30 April, people aged 18 or above must show at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on their vaccination passes. Premises are divided into two categories for implementation of the scheme, namely “active checking” and “passive checking” premises. At “passive checking” premises, such as shopping malls and department stores, patrons do not need to show their vaccine passes upon entry, but law enforcement officers will conduct spot checks.  There are exceptions, for example, people who visit restaurants just to pick up takeaways or retrieve items, or are being tested or vaccinated, and receiving essential government services. People who cannot take the Covid-19 vaccine because of  health reasons may be exempted for  3 to 6 months but they need to present a certificate issued by a doctor. Jessie Wong is not vaccinated because she believed her allergies make her unsuitable, but her doctor would not give her an exemption certificate. "I can only plan for getting injections now," she said.  The president of …

Society

Five highlights from Hong Kong Budget Address 2022-23

In response to the fifth wave of outbreak in Hong Kong, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po unveiled today’s 2022-23 Budget online, a first for the city. Here are a few highlights of his speech: 1. Important figures The government’s total revenue is estimated to be HK$715.9 billion, a 3.3% increase compared with the previous year, while expenditures will increase 15.5% to HK$807.3 billion, Chan said.  Hong Kong will have an HK$18.9 billion surplus for 2021-22, Chan said, rather than the expected HK$101.6 billion deficit.  Fiscal reserves are expected to be HK$946.7 billion by the end of March. 2. Tax The rates of profits tax and salaries tax will remain unchanged in view of the current economic situation, Chan said. The government will also continue to waive up to HK$10,000 of salaries tax and tax under personal assessment. “With the outbreak of the fifth wave of the epidemic, businesses and individuals are generally under considerable financial pressure,” he said.  3. Progressive rating system A progressive rating system for domestic properties will be introduced to reflect the "affordable users pay" principle.  For properties with a rateable value of HK$550,000 or less, rates will remain uncharged at the present level of 5%  Property owners will pay 8% for a rateable value up to HK$800,00 and 12% over that. Chan said this will affect about 42,000 local properties, accounting for around 2% of private real estate, but will bring an increase of about $760 million in annual government revenue. 4. Anti-virus measure Chan added about HK$22 billion to the Food and Health Bureau to strengthen Covid-19 testing work, produce rapid antigen test kits and provide additional support for the Hospital Authority. 5. Green city The government will inject HK$200 million into the Green Tech Fund to build a liveable and green city and HK$1.5 …

People

Cross-border drivers stuck in quarantine, driving up fresh food prices

Fresh food prices in Hong Kong soared due to the increasing number of cross-border truckers undergoing compulsory 3-week quarantine, disrupting the fresh food supply chain. As of yesterday, 35 cross-border drivers have either tested positive or preliminary positive for Covid-19 at Shenzhen Bay Port, according to Shenzhen’s checkpoint office, scaling down the human power for transporting fresh food from mainland to Hong Kong. Around 300 to 400 drivers who were considered as close contacts are isolated, said Cheung Yuk-fai, representative from the Hong Kong-Guangdong Transportation Drivers and Employees Association in a RTHK programme yesterday.  The cross-border truck drivers are responsible for transporting fresh produce from the mainland to Hong Kong. “Less than 50 workers remain working,” Cheung added.  Ada Chan, the owner of a stall at On Tai Market in Kwun Tong, said the vegetable price doubled or tripled from the previous days in order to make a balance. “The transportation fee was raised from HK$10 to HK$80. Of course I have to raise the vegetable price,” said Chan. Hong Kong receives 92 per cent of vegetables, 94 per cent of fresh pork and 97 per cent of live freshwater fish from the mainland, according to the Food and Health Bureau.  “I would prefer buying more cured products and frozen food since I am afraid the fresh food will be insufficient one day. The vegetable price is already expensive for me now,” said Leung Yuk-yee, a customer in the supermarket of On Tai Estate at Kwun Tong.  Chinese green cabbage was sold for HK$6.60 per kilogram at the beginning of the month. It escalated to HK$21.70 as of Feb. 12, according to the Vegetable Marketing Organisation. “The government could give immediate subsidies to help poorer families, it may be hard for some of them to afford the food price,” said …

Health & Environment

Ontario restaurants to resume dine-in

Dining in at restaurants in Ontario will be allowed from today at 50% capacity following a 25-day suspension because of Covid restrictions.  Customers are required to scan a QR code that shows whether they have been vaccinated in order to enter restaurants and other businesses, including theatres and gyms. Unvaccinated people will only be allowed if they can provide proof of medical exemption.  Ontario premier Doug Ford announced on Jan 20 that restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, museums and gaming halls would reopen this Monday as the Covid-19 situation shows signs of improvement. The limit for social gatherings would also increase from 5 to 10 people indoors and from 10 to 25 people outdoors. “Percent positivity has now dropped to 15.9%, new admissions to hospitals are starting to slow, and patients are spending a lot less time in the hospital when admitted. And our workforce is stabilizing, with more people coming back to work than calling in sick,” Ford said. He also said there’s evidence to show that the measures to blunt transmission of Omicron are working, adding that the government would gradually ease public health measures in February.  In early January, with the increase in the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations, dine-in at restaurants and cinemas, gyms and museums were suspended in Ontario. Stephy Yip, an exchange student from Hong Kong in Kingston, welcomed the lifting of restrictions. “I'm really looking forward to eating at the restaurants. It is more convenient because I don't have to walk home for lunch during class anymore," the 22-year-old said. Another student in Kingston, Dasha Sylenko also said she supports the reopening of restaurants and gyms.  “I am very excited about the reopening. I can’t wait for the gyms to open,” she said.  Ontario reported 2,012 cases of Covid-19 and 16 hospitalizations on Thursday, compared …

Health & Environment

Covid-19 vaccination for children starts

  Covid-19 vaccination for children in Hong Kong aged 5-11 years started yesterday.  They can get the Sinovac jabs offered at 12 Community Vaccination Centers all over the city. Primary and secondary students can also get the vaccine at five Student Health Service Centres. The two doses should be given 28 days apart.  Legal guardians must accompany children to the vaccine centres in order to sign a consent form. But some parents are hesitant. Lam Wing-yan has two children aged five and 12 years old. She would not consider vaccinating her children at this moment. “I am not sure if there will be any side effects. I still need more data before getting my children vaccinated,” Lam said . Theng Minxuan, a 16-year old student has had her first dose of BioNTech, but she is not getting the second dose. “Many of my classmates developed serious side effects after receiving the second dose of vaccination. I am scared so I don’t want to get it,” she said. From February 9, reservations will start for the BioNTech vaccine and the jabs will be available at three Children Community Vaccination Centres. The two doses should be given 12 weeks apart to minimize the chance of developing myocarditis, according to the Chairman of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Hong Kong, Chui Chun-ming who spoke on RTHK on Jan.21.  Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company that developed the mRNA vaccine such as BioNTech, has conducted trials in children aged six months to 12 years. It reported that two doses of mRNA vaccine, given more than 21 days apart are safe and effective for children.   In Taiwan, 23 people aged 12 to 17 years developed myocarditis after receiving BioNTech since November 3, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center. A week later, the Center suspended the …

Education University of Hong Kong derecognises student union, keeps HK$ 9 million reserve

  • 2022-01-21

The Education University of Hong Kong announced yesterday it will derecognise its student union. It also said it would keep the union’s HK$9 million reserve. Representatives of the former Student’s Union of the Education University bow to express gratitude towards their supporters in a screenshot of yesterday’s press conference. The university sent an email to teachers and students stating the Student’s Union has governance problems and fails to represent students. Representatives of the Student’s Union said in a press conference yesterday it did not deprive or exclude any student from applying for membership and elected and appointed officers in accordance with established instructions and procedures. In 2016, the university revised the union constitution, resulting in a decrease of members. The university said the union has been run by a temporary administrative committee for more than four years. The representatives questioned the university’s justification and legal basis to confiscate the reserves, also asking why the university did not raise concerns in previous years. “The HK$ 9 million reserve of the Student Union should belong to the students. I hope the university will discuss with us how the money will be managed,” said Yeung Yat-ming, the president of the Student’s Union. The union is now prohibited from using the name of the university, collecting membership fees, governing campus facilities or managing its university online accounts and services. “The university is abusing its power. Without the student union, there are fewer chances for us to express our opinions,” said Jocelyn Kong, a 20-year-old student at the Education University. The Student Affairs Office, which will take up the function of the union, “obviously couldn’t represent the students and deliver our concerns to the university,” said Kong. The Finance Office of the Education University said it will keep the union’s HK$9 million reserve in custody. …