Respiratory disease specialist Dr Leung Chi-chiu on Wednesday said the cancellation of mandatory isolation for Covid patients should “come one step at a time” to protect the public healthcare system, as more than 3,800 people were receiving hospital treatment for the coronavirus, with over 300 in severe and critical conditions.
He said authorities should cancel testing requirements at residential care homes and schools first, before removing isolation for patients.
“It would be contradictory if the government keeps the testing requirement, but lifts the isolation rule, because large-scale outbreaks could happen in schools and residential care homes, and spread to the community,” he told a radio programme, warning that many of the elderly living in the community were still unvaccinated.
He added that if authorities cancelled designated clinic and telemedicine services, they should provide alternatives for patients to seek help and ensure antivirals could be prescribed in three to five days.
Leung also suggested removing the mask mandate by the end of March, after the influenza season peaked.
Meanwhile, Tim Pang Hung-cheong, a community organiser at the Society for Community Organization, agreed the easing of the isolation rule should take place gradually but expressed concerns about medical support for patients.
“If the isolation rule is removed and many people catch Covid-19, can the authorities still cope with the surge in demand for medical services, without the help of designated clinics and telemedicine?”
Pang also expressed worry that scrapping the online declaration system might mean clinics could not identify Covid-19 patients when providing medical services, as they would no longer have proof of infection, urging authorities to sort out the issue.
He suggested ending such services only after the local pandemic situation had become less severe than that of influenza, expecting this period to occur around June or July.
Pang also said free Chinese medicine consultation for Covid-19 recoverees should remain in place, as the demand to treat long-Covid was expected to remain.