21 February 2007
The notifiable diseases required to be reported to the Department of Health will be increased from 32 to more than 40 after the intended amendments to the Quarantine and Prevention of Disease Ordinance (QPDO) (Cap.141). The Government's power to deal with outbreak of infectious diseases will be strengthened by these amendments.
The Quarantine and Prevention of Disease Ordinance (QPDO) (Cap.141) including its subsidiary legislation, provides the legal framework for the prevention and control of infectious diseases in Hong Kong.
To ensure that the Hong Kong regulatory framework will comply with the international requirements set out in the WHO's International Health Regulations, which will come into force in June 2007, the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau proposed a number of amendments to the QPDO at a meeting of the Panel on Health Services of the Legislative Council on 12 February 2007.
Key amendments to the QPDO include:
1. Provisions empowering the Department of Health to require travellers entering into Hong Kong to produce health declarations, have medical examinations or be ordered into quarantine to prevent any cross-boundary spread of diseases;
2. Update and expansion of the list of notifiable diseases from 32 to more than 40;
3. Provisions empowering the Department of Health to require the surrender of infectious specimens, organisms or agents;
4. Provisions empowering the Department of Health to place sick person, contact and carrier of infectious diseases under medical surveillance; and
5. Provisions empowering the Chief Executive in Council to decide on a "state of public health emergency", during which private property including vaccines, drugs, personal protective gears, vehicles and vacant residential facilities may be commandeered.
The Bill is intended to be introduced into the Legislative Council in the second quarter of 2007.
While the proposal should strengthen the local regulatory regime for preventing and controlling the spread of disease, the Government would need to clarify the legitimacy of commandeering private property to avoid any challenges under the Basic Law.
Doctors are required to make prompt reports of notifiable diseases under the current regulations. More infectious diseases will need to be reported by doctors in the future. For further information, please contact:
Name: Woody W.Y. Chang
Phone: +852 2843 2205
Fax: +852 2103 5152