Behind the curtain: Overnight changes of anti-epidemic measures show a lack of careful consideration by the government

2021.05.08

In the face of a potential new wave of the epidemic, Carrie Lam’s administration has recently introduced a series of measures to respond to the threat of possible variants. The government has imposed mandatory vaccination for all foreign domestic helpers (FDH) and forced all residents living in buildings with confirmed cases of the mutated virus to be sent to quarantine camps for 21 days, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not. This has led to strong reactions from all walks of life. Now the compulsory vaccination of FDHs has been called off, and there are also rumors that people who have received two doses of vaccine can shorten their quarantine time or be isolated at home. A politician said that although the Hong Kong government has been working on anti-epidemic measures for more than a year, it does not explain why there are still such frequent changes, as if the situation has not been carefully thought out.

He referred to the mandatory vaccination of FDHs as an example. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong announced that vaccination would be included in the requirements for FDHs to renew their working visas in the territory. This decision provoked criticisms from FDH groups, employers, and even the secretary of foreign affairs for the Philippines, Teodoro Locsin Jr., and the Philippines Consul General in Hong Kong, who were dissatisfied that the Hong Kong government had failed to consult them beforehand. The Chief Executive immediately retracted the decision and said the policy had not yet been finalized.

The political source said that to be able to announce a decision at a press conference, the government must have discussed it internally. But if it is true that the decision has not been finalized, yet it was announced at a press conference, then something has gone wrong. He also wondered why the matter involved the Philippines and the government had not consulted the Filipino side beforehand, almost turning the whole saga into a diplomatic affair, raising questions about what went wrong.

Another political insider joked that, in fact, the pro-establishment Legislative Council (LegCo) member Paul Tse may have already provided the answer in his statement in LegCo yesterday. “What did Mr. Tse say on that day? He said that the government has a culture of ‘one voice rules’ and many Secretaries of Departments and Directors of Bureaux have privately reflected to him that they do not dare or want to express their views all the time, resulting in many policies having blind spots and not being in tune with the reality.” Who created the dictatorial culture in the government? The political insider laughed and said that it should not be hard to guess.

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