Children and COVID-19: Isolation Orders and the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance
With the latest spike in COVID cases, several news outlets have reported on Hong Kong government policy in the event a child or the parents test positive for COVID. We first addressed this issue in August 2020 after receiving several inquiries seeking assistance to plan for this contingency.
Under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance, the government Health Officer (“HO”) has broad authority and discretion to issue isolation and quarantine orders. When someone tests positive, the infected person is isolated and the family members/close contacts are quarantined, but what if the infected person is an infant or young child?
Options seem to be limited in the face of the authority of the HO. A parent could ask to isolate together with an infected child, but if it is the parents who are infected, it is unlikely they would want their child to isolate with them. We have heard of cases where the helper, as a close contact, has quarantined with the children when parents have tested positive. A helper would, at a minimum, be a familiar adult to the child, reducing the risk of trauma of being suddenly removed from one’s parents.
Once an HO decision is made, parents could challenge the decision in the form of judicial review. A court proceeding, however, is expensive and carries risk: in Hong Kong, the loser pays the winner, making a challenge to an HO’s order a potentially costly decision. Furthermore, the harm to the child would have already occurred before a judicial challenge could even begin.
As such, prevention seems to be the best approach to this issue: hand washing, social distancing, and mask wearing. We also now have the additional arrow in our COVID-quiver – vaccinations. Should you have concerns, contact us and we can discuss potential options.
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