Published: 10:25, June 8, 2023 | Updated: 10:46, June 8, 2023
Mild COVID cases: Govt advises residents against visiting A&E
By Wang Zhan

In this March 10, 2022 photo, people enter Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong after a government announcement that the hospital would be used only to treat COVID-19 patients. The government said on Wednesday that most of the COVID-19 infected persons are currently mild cases. (PHOTO / AFP)

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has advised residents to attend consultations at private doctors or clinics or the general out-patient clinics (GOPC) under the Hospital Authority if they have COVID-19 symptoms. 

“At present, most of the infected persons, especially those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, are mild cases,” Secretary for Health Professor Lo Chung-mau said in a written reply to a question in the Legislative Council on Wednesday.

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Advising symptomatic residents to directly attend medical consultations at private doctors or clinics or the GOPCs, he said visiting Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments or public hospitals is not necessary. 

The government does not have any plan at the current stage to re-activate designated clinics that are mainly for coping with large-scale epidemic situations.

Lo Chung-mau, Secretary for Health, HKSAR

“A large number of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza patients with mild conditions visiting A&E departments inevitably poses pressure on A&E departments in handling and admitting other emergency or severe cases,” said Prof Lo.

Pointing out that the risk posed by COVID-19 to local public health has been significantly reduced, he said COVID-19 has been managed as an upper respiratory tract illness since early this year, with authorities focusing on the protection of the high-risk groups

The government has also lowered the response level from “Emergency” to “Alert “level since May 30 this year, he added.

“The government does not have any plan at the current stage to re-activate designated clinics that are mainly for coping with large-scale epidemic situations,” the health chief said while replying to another query.

The GOPCs under the HA currently offer about 20,000 consultation quotas each day on weekdays and some quotas are reserved for COVID-19 patients. For A&E departments of public hospitals, 18,927 persons attended A&E departments between April 19 and May 20 with primary diagnosis as COVID-19 and the majority were mild cases, according to Prof Lo.

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The HA will adjust consultation quotas as necessary to ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment, he added. 

Private hospitals and doctors have been providing consultation and treatment services for persons infected with COVID-19, he said.

“Since April 2022, the government has also started to provide two COVID-19 oral drugs to private doctors for free prescription to ‘eligible persons’ who are infected. As at early June, 2023,865 doctors and 743 clinics have been given free COVID-19 oral drugs from the government.” 

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As for consultation and other related fees the private doctors charge COVID-19 patients, the government does not mandate the price level, which is also the case for other diagnostic and treatment services offered by private doctors, said the health secretary.