The Hong Kong government's recent announcement to ease the quarantine arrangement on arrivals to Hong Kong is welcomed news for many businesses. Under the new arrangement, from 12 August 2022 (Friday), the hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals will be reduced from seven to three days, followed by four days of medical surveillance at home or alternative accommodation. Travellers may go to work during the 4-day medical surveillance.
We set out below some Q&A on what the "3+4 Quarantine Arrangement" means for employers.
- How does the "3+4 Quarantine Arrangement" Work?
The date of arrival is classified as Day 0. Travellers are required to undergo a rapid antigen test (RAT) and PCR test at the airport and if they test negative on the RAT, they will be sent to the designated quarantine hotel (DQH).
Travellers will quarantine at their DQH for 3 nights. They must submit to a PCR test on Day 2 and if this is negative, they can leave the DQH on the morning of Day 3. They will then start the medical surveillance from Day 4 to Day 7 at home or another hotel. So, for example, a person who arrives on 12 August will complete compulsory quarantine on the morning of 15 August and medical surveillance on the morning of 19 August.
Travellers are required to undergo daily RAT testing from Day 0 to Day 10 and PCR testing are required on Days 4, 6 and 9.
- How does the Health Code System Work under the "3+4 Quarantine Arrangement"?
The health code system involves a "red", "amber" and "blue" code on the LeaveHomeSafe application. A Red QR code will be issued to persons who are confirmed to have Covid-19. Travellers arriving in Hong Kong and testing negative at the airport with a RAT will be issued an amber QR code. The amber QR code will last until the end of the home medical surveillance, after which (provided the Covid-19 tests remain negative) it will be replaced by a blue QR code.
During the home medical surveillance, a traveller can go out after obtaining a daily negative result on a RAT. However, an amber QR code holder cannot enter premises that are subject to "active checking" of the customer or visitor's Vaccine Pass (e.g., restaurants and bars, homes for the elderly, etc.). That said, they can enter premises subject to "passive checking" of Vaccine Pass, such as taking public transport going to work or school, entering shopping malls and supermarkets and markets, etc. In respect of those places where there are no restrictions such as schools, there may still be additional restrictions or requirements imposed by the school.
Any restriction on activities? Remarks Red code Yes Not allowed to leave the isolation location Amber code Yes
Cannot enter the following premises in the capacity of a customer or visitor (see Note):
- Premises which are subject to "active checking" of the Vaccine Pass i.e. catering business premises (including bars or pubs), amusement game centres, bathhouses, fitness centres, places of amusement, indoor places of public entertainment, party rooms, beauty parlours and massage establishments, club houses, clubs or nightclubs, karaoke establishments, mahjong-tin kau premises, indoor sports premises, swimming pools, cruise ships, indoor event premises, barber shops or hair salons, and religious premises.
- Premises required to inspect the Vaccine Pass visually as far as feasible, i.e. outdoor places of public entertainment, outdoor sports premises and outdoor event premises.
- Other premises: residential care homes for the elderly, residential care homes for persons with disabilities, schools and designated healthcare premises.
Note: Persons who are working or studying at those premises, or receiving services at designated healthcare premises, are not subject to the above restriction, but this is still subject to any additional rules or requirements imposed by the employers or persons-in-charge of individual premises in accordance with their own needs. If any persons under the category of Amber Code work at the premises, the person-in-charge or manager is required to ensure that the staff member strictly observe anti-epidemic measures, including mask-wearing.
Can enter premises subject to "passive checking" of the Vaccine Pass (including shopping malls, supermarkets, markets, public transport, schools).
Blue code No
- Is an Employee who is Subject to the 3-day Hotel Quarantine Entitled to Sickness Allowance under the Employment Ordinance?
No. A period of compulsory quarantine on return to Hong Kong from overseas required under Cap. 599E will not be treated as "sickness day" under the Employment Ordinance.
- Can an Employer Require its Employee to Attend Work during the 4-day Home Medical Surveillance?
An employer can require its employee to attend work during the 4-day home medical surveillance even for those who are working at premises which require "active checking" of the Vaccine Pass. This is subject to the employer complying with its other contractual and statutory obligations.
Employers should comply with its obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance (OSHO) to ensure so far as reasonably practicable the workplace health and safety of employees when determining whether or not to require an employee to attend work during a home medical surveillance period.
See also our earlier Legal Update on Returning to Work in Hong Kong After Recovering from COVID-19 for areas which employers should pay attention to on the arrangement for the recovered employees.
- Can an Employer Direct its Employee to Stay Home during the 4-day Home Medical Surveillance Period?
Yes, but it depends. There are a few things which an employer should consider in determining whether or not to direct an employee to stay home during the medical surveillance period:
- Obligation under the contract: Employers should continue to comply with their obligations under the contract of employment. Is there a contractual right for the employer to direct the employee to work from home and/or not to attend work? What are the implications on the employee if he/she is not allowed to attend work (in particular where remote working is not feasible) e.g., in terms of remuneration.
- Obligation under the OHSO: Employer should assess the circumstance of each individual case and determine whether sending an employee home is a reasonably practicable step to take to ensure the workplace health and safety of employees.
- Restrictions under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO): The DDO prohibits the less favorable treatment of an employee on the ground of disability. Disability includes past and imputed disability.
Employers should assess all the facts and circumstances, and taking into account the obligations under the OSHO, in determining the work arrangement of the employees and/or guidance to the employees if they are required to attend work during the home medical surveillance. If employees are required to return to work during the medical surveillance, employers should remind them to take the RAT on a daily basis and check their test results before allowing them to return to the office. As always, employers should keep themselves up-to-date on the quarantine arrangements and communicate to the employees clearly on the work arrangement.