英文

Editorial:Vaccination at the workplace

【明報專訊】The concerted effort made by all sectors in Hong Kong to boost the inoculation rate has shown initial signs of success, as the rate of vaccination against COVID-19 has increased. Still, there is quite a long way to go before the desired vaccination rate can be achieved. To encourage vaccination, a hotel has launched a scheme to reward those who have got the shot, at the same time mentioning that it may lay off staff if the vaccination rate falls short of the target.

Hong Kong has been fighting the pandemic for nearly a year and a half. Before vaccines could be rolled out, one-size-fits-all anti-pandemic measures were the only option. Now that vaccines are available, anti-pandemic measures can be relaxed in a targeted manner according to the actual situation of vaccination. In April this year, the government proposed the phased relaxation of business restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants based on the ''vaccine bubble''. Lately, the government has even proposed banning people who are unvaccinated from entering restaurants, construction sites, schools and other venues if the fifth wave of infections breaks out. Some people think that such a practice is a form of ''discrimination'' against and ''punishment'' for those who do not get vaccinated. However, people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who are not are faced with different levels of risk, and the differences in treatment towards them are related to public health and cannot be invariably labelled ''discrimination''. David Hui Shu-cheong, a government expert advisor, believes that if the fifth wave hits, the principle should be giving those who have been vaccinated more freedom. If ''one-size-fits-all'' measures are still taken during the fifth wave, the government will effectively be ''punishing those who have been vaccinated'', which will be neither necessary nor fair, says Hui.

Vaccine hesitancy is serious in Hong Kong, and the reasons behind it are complex. The authorities have listed a series of data showing the ''background'' incidences of some diseases to dispel the misunderstanding about ''death caused by vaccination''. Experts have also stressed in unison that vaccines are safe. Still, many people refuse to get vaccinated. Recently, the Hong Kong government and the business community have worked together to boost the vaccination rate, offering myriads of rewards and incentives. The pace of vaccination has finally picked up. So far, about 1.6 million people have been vaccinated, accounting for 24% of Hong Kongers eligible for the shot. However, for Hong Kong to significantly relax its anti-pandemic measures, the vaccination rate must reach at least 60% to 70%. To encourage vaccination, many companies have allowed employees to take paid leave and even offered cash subsidies. Some companies have chosen the carrot and stick approach. Calling on its employees to get vaccinated, a hotel has recently offered subsidies and rewards but at the same time expressing ''disappointment and anger'' at some employees' refusal to get the shot. Its management have even said that if the vaccination rate of employees is less than 70% by the end of this month, the company may lay off staff to save costs.

The world amid the pandemic bears no comparison with that before it. Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 so as to protect oneself and the others is of crucial importance when it comes to different sectors' and the entire society's return to normal. If one puts ideology above everything else, one will be having one's hands tied oneself. At a time when soft and hard tactics are employed to boost the vaccination rate in so many places, there is no reason why Hong Kong should let up. For some time, the issue of vaccination at the workplace will only grow more and more acute. Rather than get entangled in ''metaphysical'' discussions such as ''vaccine discrimination'', it is better for all parties to face the reality of the pandemic as soon as possible and formulate reasonable and appropriate guidelines for issues such as the requirement for vaccination at the workplace. This way, a balance can be struck between the points of view of employers, employees and customers and public health needs.

明報社評 2021.06.10:僱主要求員工打針 關鍵在於合理合度

香港各界攜手「谷針」初見成效,新冠疫苗接種率有所上升,但跟理想水平尚有頗遠距離,有酒店推出獎勵計劃鼓勵員工打針,同時提到接種率若不達標,公司可能裁員。

香港抗疫近一年半,疫苗開打之前,防疫措施只能一刀切;現在有了疫苗,防疫措施就可以視乎打針情况,有所針對地放寬。今年4月,政府提出以「疫苗氣泡」為基礎,分階段放寬食肆等處所的營業限制;及至最近,當局更提出,如果爆發第五波疫情,或會限制未打針者進入食肆、地盤、學校等處所。有人質疑這是「疫苗歧視」、「懲罰不打針者」,然而已打針者和未打針者面對疫情,風險高低有別,差別對待若是跟公共衛生有關,不能統統說成是「歧視」。政府專家顧問許樹昌認為,倘若第五波來臨,應以保障已打針者享有更多自由為原則;屆時仍然採取一刀切防疫措施,實際是「懲罰已打針者」,既無必要,亦不公道。

本港疫苗猶豫嚴重,背後成因複雜,當局雖已羅列一系列背景發病率數據,澄清「打針致命」等錯覺誤解,專家亦一致強調疫苗安全,然而仍有不少人拒絕接種。近期港府和商界合力谷針,各式獎賞利誘層出不窮,疫苗接種步伐總算有所加快,迄今約有160萬人打過針,佔合資格人口24%,可是香港若想顯著放寬防疫措施,接種率至少要達到六七成。為了鼓勵打針,不少企業同意讓員工放有薪疫苗假,甚至提供現金津貼;與此同時,亦有公司選擇軟硬兼施。最近有酒店呼籲員工接種疫苗,津貼獎賞之餘,同時亦對一些員工拒絕打針表示「失望和憤怒」,資方表示倘若本月底員工接種率不及七成,公司或要裁員節省成本。

疫下世界不能與疫前相提並論,接種新冠疫苗護己護人,對各行各業以至整個社會復常非常重要,事事意識形態先行,只會作繭自縛。很多地方都在軟硬兼施谷針,香港沒理由放軟手腳。未來一段時間,職場打針問題,只會愈來愈突出,各方與其繼續糾纏「疫苗歧視」等形而上討論,不如及早直面抗疫現實,就職場要求打針一類問題,制訂合理合度準則,兼顧勞資雙方、客人及公共衛生需要。

■/ Glossary 生字 /

fall short:to fail to reach an amount or standard that was expected or hoped for, causing disappointment

pick up:to get better, stronger, etc; to improve

the carrot and stick approach:if you use the carrot and stick approach, you persuade sb to try harder by offering them a reward if they do, or a punishment if they do not

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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