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Health secretary defends mandatory testing for airport frontline staff

21 August 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

All frontline airport staff should have at least one vaccine dose by Sept 1 

Secretary for Food and Health Prof. Sophia Chan has said the Airport Authority has the right to require its staff working in high-risk areas to get vaccinated.

Chan said in an interview with reporters earlier today, Aug 21, that it is important for any organization to do a risk assessment not only for its staff but also for other people around them.

While people who travel to Hong Kong are required to test negative before being allowed in, some are still found infected after arrival, she said.


“We have to be very careful, be it the inbound travelers or the transit travelers. Therefore, for those people who are working in the areas whereby they would have close contact with inbound travelers or transit passengers, it is important to protect them and also to ensure that they are vaccinated,” said Chan.

Her comments were made after the Airport Authority announced Friday night that certain categories of staff must get vaccinated starting Sept. 1, and no medical exemption for anyone would be accepted.

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Neither would they be allowed to opt for regular testing for Covid-19 in lieu of vaccination.

The new requirement covers airline and ground agent staff, ramp coordinator, inflight catering coordinator, cargo loading staff, as well as cabin and lavatory cleaners.

The Authority said these workers handle high-risk cargo or have close-range interaction with arrival and transit passengers, which leaves them vulnerable to contamination.


By Sept 1, the specified staff must have at least one dose of a vaccine. Those who completed one dose or are fully vaccinated will still need to undergo a test every seven days.

By Sept 30, all the specified staff must have completed two doses of a vaccine. But they will still be required to take tests every seven days.

The new rules are being put in place after a local woman who worked as a waitress in a customer lounge at the airport was found to carry the L452R mutant strain of the coronavirus. Health experts say she must have been infected by a transit passenger.

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Earlier, a staff member receiving cargo crew was also infected with the variant by two foreign domestic helpers who occupied the same section of the airport as he did.

3 new arrivals tested positive for the L452R mutant strain of the coronavirus

Meanwhile, the Centre for Health Protection reported three new imported infections Saturday. All of them were found to carry the L452R variant.

One of them is an 18-year-old male who had received two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine in Venezuela on Jun 5 and 26. He tested positive on arrival in Hong Kong although he did not have symptoms.


The two other cases involve a 17-year-old girl who flew in Kazakhstan and an 11-year-old boy who came from Nigeria. They both tested positive on day 3 of their hotel quarantine.

The girl was staying at Best Western Hotel in Wan Chai and was asymptomatic. The boy was at Ramada Grand View hotel in North Point and developed symptoms yesterday.

A total of 45 cases have been reported in the past 14 days. The new cases raised the city’s Covid tally to 12,053.
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