Partners of women giving birth in Hong Kong public hospitals will be allowed to stay with them during the delivery as long as both have tested negative for Covid-19 beforehand, the Hospital Authority announced Friday in a change of heart welcomed by expectant mothers.

The new arrangement will begin next Tuesday, the chairman of the authority’s Coordinating Committee in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr. Au Yeung Kam-chuen, told a press briefing.

Au yeung kam chuen
Chairman of the Hospital Authority Coordinating Committee (Obstetrics and Gynaecology), Dr Au Yeung Kam-chuen. Photo: HKGov webcast screenshot.

Accompanying fathers will have to have tested negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours before delivery, while the expectant mother will be tested upon admission.

“The obstetrics department recognises that having company during labour is beneficial to the mother and her delivery,” Au Yeung said. “It reduces labour pains and risks of having a caesarean or induction.”

He advised partners to take Covid-19 tests at regular intervals before the expected birth date in case the baby arrived sooner or later than expected. “It’s quite demanding, but I think it’s [something] both sides need to pay to achieve a good outcome.”

pregnant woman pregnancy
Photo: Pixabay.

HKFP previously reported that the Hospital Authority had – in some cases – stopped allowing mothers to be accompanied in delivery wards, citing Covid-19 infection risks. The question of whether partners were allowed during childbirth depended on the number of Covid-19 cases on the day of delivery.

Some expectant mothers were distraught to find out they would have to give birth without the support of their spouses.

“Infection control experts at the HA believe this is an acceptable arrangement,” Au Yeung added, although he cautioned: “The spouse will have to leave immediately after the delivery and will not be able to stay behind in the post-natal ward.”

Lindsey Ford, who is due to give birth two days after the new rule takes effect, said it was “an enormous relief.”

lindsey ford
Lindsey Ford. Photo: Supplied.

Her husband is also “incredibly pleased,” she told HKFP. “Being at the birth of your child is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can’t get that back.”

Ford previously said in an interview that she was shocked to find out her husband would not be allowed to accompany her during delivery. “We’re incredibly glad that the Hospital Authority has listened to feedback.”

A petition urging Chief Executive Carrie Lam to take action on the matter last year garnered over 5,000 signatures.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.