The Hospital Authority said on Monday that it had strengthened outpatient services to care for Covid-19 patients as specialised services for the virus are brought to an end.
The announcement came on the day the government formally began treating Covid as a regular upper respiratory tract infection and eased several anti-pandemic measures, while the Hospital Authority stopped sending coronavirus patients to seven designated clinics and withdrew its tele-consultation service for patients isolating at home.
Tony Ha, the authority's chief manager for primary and community services, said some 2,000 of the 10,000 places available at general outpatient clinics each day would instead be designated for people with Covid.
“We hope that during this transitional period, our services can be easily accessible," he told an RTHK programme. "We are particularly concerned about higher risk patients, like the elderly and young children below five. So among the 2,000, we are currently reserving half of it for these higher risk groups.”
He said he believed there would be enough places available, and the quota could be adjusted as necessary.
Speaking on the same programme, a general practitioner, Lam Wing-wo, called for understanding for private doctors who've turned away Covid patients, saying they may have good reasons.
Lam who is one of several hundred private doctors who offer antiviral drugs against Covid-19, said it's possible doctors are choosing not to treat Covid cases because they themselves are old or they have elderly relatives in poor health at home. He said clinics may also be overwhelmed with patients with other illnesses.
But Lam said he believed the private sector could still cope with the increase in Covid patients.
Under the latest changes to Covid rules from Monday, people who test positive are no longer issued with an isolation notice and must therefore obtain a medical certificate to claim sick leave at work.
A unionist called on employers not to cancel workers’ attendance bonuses if they're absent from work for a day or two because of Covid.
Tam Kam-lin, vice chairwoman of the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, said monthly attendance bonuses were typically part of the pay packet for people in sectors like retail, transport or catering. That would mean a worker could lose up to HK$2,000 for missing a single day of work.
“They lose the attendance bonus, they have to pay for the doctor's consultation, and they may not get sick leave allowance. The price to pay for one day off is very heavy for these workers,” she said.
The Centre for Health Protection said 358 people tested positive for Covid through PCR tests on Monday.
However, it stressed this doesn't represent all Covid cases in Hong Kong, as the government no longer requires people with positive Rapid Anitgen Tests to report their infections.
The centre also said that five more people with Covid have died.