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Legal news, views and insight from LexisNexis Hong Kong
23 January 2020 | by LexisNexis Hong Kong
On 8 January 2020, the Hong Kong Government gazetted various changes to the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (the “PCDO”) in the wake of a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause which started in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China, in December 2019. This viral pneumonia had resulted in causing serious clinical conditions both within Mainland China and Hong Kong over the past weeks.
The changes made are twofold and include:
- the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Amendment of Schedule 1) Notice 2020 (“the Notice”) made by the Director of Health; and
- the Prevention and Control of Disease (Amendment) Regulation 2020 (“the Amendment Regulation”) made by the Secretary for Food and Health.
Pursuant to section 15 of the PCDO, the Director of Health amended Schedule 1 to the PCDO, adding “Severe respiratory disease associated with a novel infectious agent” to the list of scheduled infectious diseases therein.
Since the causative pathogen of the disease is still under investigation by Mainland health authorities as of now, the Hong Kong Government stipulates that the main course of action in Hong Kong is to prevent the spread of disease here by identifying any cases of severe respiratory symptoms. This new addition to Schedule 1 seeks to achieve this aim as it makes the disease a notifiable one under section 4 of the Prevention and Control of Diseases Regulation (“the Regulation”), which is designed to ensure maximal protection against infectious diseases through early identification. Section 4 requires medical practitioners to notify the Director of Health if they have reasons to suspect the existence of a case of any of the scheduled infectious diseases listed in Schedule 1 to the PCDO.
The Amendment Regulation
Through the Amendment Regulation, the Secretary of Food and Health had added the same disease into a different list of specified diseases located in section 56 of the Regulation. This Amendment Regulation was made pursuant to section 7 of the PCDO, which confers upon the Secretary for Food and Health the authority to make regulations for the purposes of preventing the introduction into and transmission from Hong Kong of any disease.
The specified diseases in section 56 covers a narrower range of diseases in contrast to the scheduled infectious diseases in Schedule 1 to the PCDO but confers other powers to effect further control measures to prevent the spread of this new novel infectious agent in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government specifically refers to a few measures that help to prevent the disease from being exported from Hong Kong. These measures include section 57 of the Regulations which prohibits suspected persons of a specified disease and their contacts from leaving Hong Kong without the written permission of health officers, and section 59 which empowers authorized persons to take the body temperature of a traveler who is at a point of entry and to stop and detain them if necessary until their body temperature is taken.
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