In view of the severity of the fifth wave of COVID-19, with the support of the Development Bureau, the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and the construction industry have launched various anti-epidemic measures, including the Construction Industry Caring Campaign 2.0 – Fight against Novel Coronavirus, the Construction Industry COVID-19 Testing Day (Testing Day) and the Vaccine Pass to relieve the possible impact of the epidemic on the industry. This time, I have particularly invited Chairman of the CIC, Mr HO On-sing, Thomas, who just took up the appointment in February, to talk about how the CIC, the industry and frontline workers join hands to help the industry and the community in their fight against the pandemic.
All five Construction Industry COVID-19 Testing Days yield good results
The Government has been adopting risk-based testing strategies with a view to achieving “early identification, early isolation and early treatment”, and cutting the transmission chains as far as possible. Recently, when the Government provided free Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits to construction workers, the CIC and the industry helped with the distribution. With the support of the Development Bureau (DEVB), the CIC and the industry held five Testing Days in March. Over 500 000 free RAT kits were distributed to the industry, covering about 1 400 sites across the territory with over 150 000 workers and site personnel taking the RAT at the same time.
Mr Thomas HO says that arrangements were made for all site personnel to undergo RAT on the mornings of testing days. Apart from identifying unwell workers so that they could self-isolate and receive appropriate treatment as early as practicable, cross-infection could also be avoided on the construction site. On days when the epidemic was the more severe, 1.8 percent of workers were preliminarily tested positive. However, the ratio dropped to 0.1 percent on the final testing day, proving that testing days could give satisfactory results and give workers peace of mind to go to work.
Taking the lead to implement the Vaccine Pass on construction sites
The Vaccine Pass is one of the anti-epidemic measures of the Government, the objective of its implementation is to encourage more people to get vaccinated in order to safeguard public health. At the same time the Government implements the Vaccine Pass in some premises, the CIC and industry stakeholders are taking the lead to implement the Vaccine Pass on all construction sites in Hong Kong in two stages.
The first stage of the Vaccine Pass started on trial on March 7. The scheme has been fully implemented since March 14, with access to construction sites restricted to workers, staff and other people including visitors with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, except for the exempted parties. The arrangement will enter its second phase on April 14, requiring all to have received at least two doses of Covid-19 vaccine before they can enter any construction site. So far, 99 percent of construction workers have had at least one dose Covid-19 vaccine, with 95 percent having had two.
90 percent of workers have returned to work
Mr Thomas HO says that at the height of the epidemic, only 60 000 workers were working at construction sites across Hong Kong. As some workers or their family members were infected, they would not go to work. Following the Testing Days and the implementation of Vaccine Pass, 100 000 to 110 000 workers had returned to work by last week, reaching 90 percent productivity.
Construction Industry Caring Campaign 2.0
In early 2020, when Hong Kong experienced the first and second waves of the epidemic, the CIC launched a fundraising campaign, namely the Construction Industry Caring Campaign, raising over $40 million in donations and supplies over a short period of time to help infected workers. More than 5 000 workers were provided with financial assistance during the campaign, which was concluded at the end of February.
During the fifth wave of the epidemic, the CIC, with the DEVB’s support, allocated $123 million to extend the Construction Industry Caring Campaign and continues to provide appropriate support to workers diagnosed with COVID-19 and requiring isolation in phase 2.0 (Campaign 2.0). Mr Thomas HO says that the application process for Campaign 2.0 is as simple as the previous one, with the aim of relieving the financial pressure on workers. Campaign 2.0 will be open for application in early April and details will be made available later on the CIC’s website at www.cic.hk.
Converting containers for healthcare workers to rest
In addition, healthcare workers as well as care staff of residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) are under tremendous pressure in the midst of the severe epidemic, including the fear of getting infected or bringing the virus home. The CIC, together with the industry, has taken the lead in donating more than 40 container-turned rest rooms equipped with lights, ventilation fans, air-conditioners, etc. to various social welfare organisations and hospitals for healthcare workers and RCHE staff to rest. Currently, about 20 RCHEs or hospitals have benefitted from the initiative. Since the beginning of the initiative, many developers have promptly responded to the CIC's call for donations, and more RCHEs and hospitals are expected to benefit. Moreover, Mr Thomas HO recently visited the container-turned Caroline Hill Road Pop-up Community Vaccination Centre (PCVC), and praised the contractor for completing the construction and quality inspection in a matter of three weeks, which was highly cost-effective.
With a significant workforce, the construction industry is an important pillar of Hong Kong's economy. I am grateful to the CIC and the industry for taking the lead in implementing a number of anti-epidemic measures, including handling applications for workers in need and distributing cash assistance, so as to help the industry tide over the difficult times. At this extraordinary moment, I hope that we can all do our part and work together, eventually overcoming the epidemic.
3 April, 2022Back