Medical proof a must for Covid patients applying for sick leave starting Jan 30

Workers who tested positive for Covid must obtain a doctor’s certificate in order to apply for paid sick leave starting January 30, with authorities to stop issuing quarantine orders by that time, Secretary for Labor and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han said.

“The arrangements [for sick leave] for positive workers will not be any different from those diagnosed with other diseases,” Sun told a press conference Thursday afternoon, hours after chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu said Covid patients won’t be ordered to undergo quarantine by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, controller of the Centre for Health Protection Edwin Tsui Lok-kin said Covid-positive citizens without any symptoms can go to work and need not wait until they test negative.

Yet, to protect children and youngsters, students are still advised to test negative before they can go to school again, Tsui said.

Tsui further explained that all quarantine orders will expire by January 30, and authorities will arrange for those staying in isolation facilities to go home. The two declaration platforms for reporting rapid antigen test results and PCR test results, as well as the telephone declaration platform, will also cease operations.

Some of the isolation facilities will remain in operation for those in need but limited to Hong Kong residents.

Citizens can contact the Fire Services Department to be admitted to the facilities and will be required to test positive via RAT before entry. They can stay for seven days at most and leave without displaying a negative result once their home conditions are deemed fit.

“We will monitor the development of Covid-19, an endemic respiratory disease, the way we do for flu,” said Tsui.

Hospital Authority’s chief executive Tony Ko Pat-sing said that previously suspended out-patient services will gradually return to normal, and Covid patients admitted to the hospital will be charged medical fees. For non-eligible patients, they will have to pay the full price for their stay and the Covid drugs.

The remote doctor consultation service will also be paused for the HA to allocate more resources to other services and surgery appointments.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau insisted that Covid is different from influenza.

“I don’t think we should regard this disease [Covid] of lesser significance just because of the term ‘endemic,’” said Lo.

Yet, it seems the mask mandate is here to stay as Lo stressed, “mask-wearing plays an extremely important role during Covid” when asked by reporters.