Hong Kong government lowers COVID-19 response level to “Alert”

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30th May 2023 – (Hong Kong) After three years of grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong has finally returned to a state of normalcy. The government announced today that the response level in the Preparedness and Response Plan for Novel Infectious Disease has been downgraded from “Emergency” to “Alert” level. The “Command and Coordination Group” on Response to the COVID-19 Epidemic” and the expert advisory panel on the pandemic will also be disbanded. As for confirmed cases, the Centre for Health Protection will no longer report the daily figures of “new confirmed cases identified by laboratory tests” and “new deaths related to COVID-19.” The infection figures will be released weekly via the “COVID-19 and Flu Express” report.

The government stated that in response to the downgrade, adjustments will be made to the government’s emergency response structure. From now on, cross-departmental emergency response work will be led and coordinated by the healthcare department instead of the Chief Executive-led Command & Co-ordination Group under the “Emergency” level. The relevant policy bureaus and departments will continue to handle subsequent work. The Hospital Authority’s central command committee, the Emergency Executive Committee, and the Hospital Authority Emergency Operation Command (HAEOC)  will cease operations and will be monitored online for any future outbreaks. The Centre for Health Protection’s Emergency Response Centre will also stop operating.

In response, the Hospital Authority (HA) has announced that public hospitals in Hong Kong will stand down from the Emergency Response Level to Alert Response Level with immediate effect. This decision is in line with the government’s decision to stand down the response level from Emergency to Alert under the Preparedness and Response Plan for Novel Infectious Disease of Public Health Significance, in view of the latest situation of COVID-19.

Under the Alert Response Level, visiting arrangements in public hospitals will continue as earlier resumed. Patients, visitors, and staff members are required to wear surgical masks in the patient care areas of public hospitals and clinics. Personal and environmental hygiene should be maintained at all times, and special attention should be paid to hand hygiene. Volunteer services and clinical attachments resumed earlier in public hospitals will also continue.

However, the Special Chinese Medicine Programme for COVID-19 In-patients provided at the North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre will be suspended.

HA will display posters and notices in public hospitals and clinics to remind members of the public of the standing down of the response level and the corresponding revised arrangements. The triage assessment for fever patients with respiratory symptoms will remain unchanged and continue at Accident and Emergency Departments and General Outpatient Clinics.

The HA spokesman emphasised that they will stay vigilant to monitor the latest developments of different infectious diseases and the need to update measures. They will continue to keep the public and healthcare professionals informed of the latest situation and provide relevant information in close collaboration with the Centre for Health Protection.