March of Lam’s volunteers

August 18, 2020 09:10
Photo: RTHK/AFP

Objectively, most observers would judge that Hong Kong has weathered the Covid-19 pandemic remarkably well until now.

Recently, mortalities jumped from single figures to a total of 69 out of over 4,481 registered cases.

By comparison with the majority of the world, excluding shining examples like New Zealand and South Korea, this achievement has been predominantly attributable to the common sense of the population combined with world class experts, such as Professor Yuen Kwok-yung and the front-line medical workers.

The Achilles Heel in the response has been the gormless government under the leadership of toxic Carrie Lam.

DNA tracing points, unquestionably, to the exemptions from testing and quarantining as the weakest link in the defences.

Allegedly, for humanitarian reasons, seamen transiting between vessels were exempted from testing. But instead of a controlled transit, designed to cocoon them from the population, they were permitted to wander freely through the city.

What makes this exemption so egregious is that a high percentage of seamen originated from countries with apparently runaway Covid-19 infections.

A similar absence of controlled processing resulted in air crew staying in hotels, free to shop, sightsee and dine without restriction.

The cream of exemptions were selected business executives from major listed companies, though it is not difficult to discern why they were allowed to curdle the milk.

Hong Kong’s bloated listed companies sector has a distinguished reputation for influencing government decisions in their favour.

The basic question, which will remain unanswered, is why was the humanitarian safety of Hong Kong’s population subordinated to the interests of a preferred minority?

But even with the consequences of this example of the government’s criminal negligence, the health teams continue to cope and by and large the population to observe the essential restrictions.

Therefore, given the outstanding performance of Hong Kong’s medical fraternity in dealing with the virus, the question necessarily arises, why import a clutch of mainland “technicians” to help address the problem?

Permit me to make clear my perspective on this issue.

Much of my work involves identifying those responsible for clinical negligence and holding them responsible for the adverse outcome.

Under our common law system, those found negligent, generically the tortfeasors, are liable to compensate their victims for the loss and damage that they have caused.

A civilized society requires that the tortfeasor restore the innocent injured party to the position that the victim enjoyed before the infliction of the loss and damage.

This is not retribution but compensatory justice.

Prevention being better than cure, Hong Kong’s various professional bodies prescribe strict requirements before clinical professionals are permitted to practise here.

So stringently has the Hong Kong Medical Council observed its regulations that many well-qualified medical practitioners have been denied the opportunity to work in Hong Kong.

But now, Carrie Lam, that well-known authority on all matters clinical, has engineered that 60 “technicians” of unknown qualification are to be let loose on an undeserving public.

Moreover, the identity of these “technicians” is to be concealed. Presumably this now becomes a state secret and anyone revealing their identity will risk offending against the National Security Law.

Plainly, they will not be employed by the Hospital Authority, therefore they will not be covered by insurance.

Another potential state secret will be the identity of to whom they will be responsible.

The test that these anonymous technicians will perform is not of the same standard as that currently deployed by Hong Kong clinical staff.

One of the disturbing, yet all too familiar, features of the pandemic has been the sub-standard Personal Protective Equipment rushed out of the mainland.

If there is a shortcoming in the testing regimen, it is a shortage of equipment to process the test data. This is a funding issue rather than a personnel problem and there are firms ready and willing to take up this task.

As for additional hospital beds, it is absurd to suggest that Hong Kong’s construction companies could not deliver these in record time.

The upshot is that 60 anonymous, unregistered and presumably uninsured clinical technicians of indeterminate qualification, with no allegiance to any Hong Kong authority, exempt from testing themselves but intent on performing Covid-19 tests of questionable standard, are to be imposed on Hong Kong’s world class health system.

Why?

There seems to be only one possible inference to draw, namely so that Carrie Lam can claim that Hong Kong is being “helped” by the mainland.

In the unhappy event that any of these “technicians” injures a patient in Hong Kong, establishing liability will be nigh on impossible.

Which is why, from the perspective of civil legal liability, my humble recommendation is to send them back, before harm is done.

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Queen's Counsel