Hong Kong civil servants who refuse to get vaccinated will from Monday be required to take a Covid-19 test twice a month and will have to pay for the tests themselves as of September, according to an internal government document which describes them as “irresponsible and inconsiderate.”
The Vaccination in lieu of Regular Testing scheme was expanded to all government employees on August 2, meaning that those who have yet to be vaccinated must take a nasal and throat swabs test every two weeks.
The first test result must be submitted by August 16 but those who have received at least one dose of vaccine are exempt. Civil servants will only be able to claim test expenses until the end of this month.
According to the document, civil servants who refuse to be vaccinated without a medical reason will have to pay for their tests from September onwards, and complete the tests outside work hours.
“A member of staff who could not produce a valid Covid-19 vaccination record and has failed to undergo bi-weekly testing without reasonable cause is not only refusing to comply with
directives from the management, but also being irresponsible and inconsiderate to co-workers as well as the public being served,” the document read, adding that those who fail to comply may face disciplinary action.
Leung Chau-ting, chairperson of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, said his federation and other civil service unions were not consulted before the decision was announced, which he regretted.
“There are a lot of situations making employees feel worried,” Leung said, adding that it was difficult for those with long-term illness and pregnant women to obtain proof that they were not suitable for vaccination.
The chairperson said he felt the government’s decision was rushed, and many civil servants who had contacted his federation about the new requirement described it as a de facto compulsory vaccination programme.
“A lot of them said it’s as if the government wants to boost the vaccination rate, and that’s why they put civil servants on the spot,” said Leung.
As of Sunday 3,256,100 people in the city of 7.5 million had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 2,462,900 of them were fully vaccinated.
Despite the easy availability of free vaccines in the city, the government has struggled to promote its programme. Some citizens are worried about what they see as potential side effects even after clarification from medical professionals.
Hong Kong has reported 11,988 infections and 212 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over a year ago.