Early vaccination for all and establish immune barrier
Nurture talents with multiple pathways and promote upward mobility
6 June 2021
The severe challenges brought by COVID-19 have been unprecedented. On public health considerations, the risks of transmission have to be minimised lest the anti-epidemic achievements made thus far go down the drain. Meanwhile, the needs of enterprises and individuals have to be catered for. To strike an optimal balance, the HKSAR Government has been considering and adjusting its anti-epidemic strategy and preventive measures with due care under the fundamental principle of “preventing the importation of cases and the spread of the virus in the community”.
During the epidemic, some foreign places implemented lockdowns, curfews or stay-at-home orders, while Hong Kong has not resorted to any of these measures so far. Even when there was a restriction-testing declaration operation, it would commence at night and end as early as possible in the next morning to minimise the impacts on residents. Besides, our public hospitals have never refused admission of confirmed COVID-19 cases for reasons of insufficient healthcare resources. These humble accomplishments would not have been possible without the concerted efforts of the HKSAR Government and the general public.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Hong Kong people have maintained a strong awareness of epidemic prevention and strictly observed anti-epidemic measures. Such civic-mindedness deserves recognition. However, this is not enough for us to come through the epidemic. To boost Hong Kong’s immunity power, mass vaccination is the only way to go.
Early vaccination for all
To encourage vaccination uptake, the HKSAR Government has launched the “Early Vaccination for All” campaign in the hope that by significantly raising the vaccination rate, we can build an effective immune barrier against a new wave of outbreak, thereby expediting economic recovery and bringing life as well as travel back to normal.
Last week, the Government approved lowering the age limit for receiving the Comirnaty vaccine to 12. Relevant arrangements will be announced soon. Having regard to the advice given by the Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Vaccines, the Secretary for Food and Health considered that the benefits of lowering the age limit for receiving the Comirnaty vaccine would outweigh the risks, and the measure would not only protect adolescents from COVID-19, but also enable them to resume normal school and daily life as soon as possible.
I encourage citizens to get vaccinated without delay in order to protect themselves and others. I also call on all sectors of society, large and small enterprises alike, to support the drive and work together to fulfil their social responsibilities so that Hong Kong may come through the epidemic shortly.
All schools in the territory have resumed face-to-face classes on a half-day basis since May 24. I believe that students appreciate very much the opportunity to get back to school. To create a safe learning environment, both teachers and students should stay vigilant and keep to the preventive measures in place. According to the information submitted by some 2 000 schools in Hong Kong, the overall vaccination rate of teachers and staff is only about 18% (based on those who have received the second dose and those who have planned to receive / have received the first dose). The Government will keep up the promotional efforts and assist teachers and staff of schools to get vaccinated as early as possible.
Getting prepared for multiple pathways ahead
Thanks to the active co-operation of schools and students, this year’s Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination went smoothly against the backdrop of COVID-19. 43 994 school candidates will receive their results on July 21. In recent years, post-secondary education in Hong Kong has developed in leaps and bounds. We have 22 degree-awarding tertiary institutions offering a total of about 480 undergraduate and 380 sub-degree programmes which provide some 48 600 full-time locally accredited post-secondary places in 2021/22. Such diversified choices will be sufficient to cater for all HKDSE school candidates who meet the relevant admission requirements to further their studies in Hong Kong.
There are multiple pathways for young people to choose from. Now that there is over a month’s time before the results of the 2021 HKDSE Examination is released, I advise candidates to get prepared for the flexible and diversified study or career pathways which provide multiple entry and exit points, and choose the suitable direction for development and plan their future according to their interests, needs and aptitudes. In the course of time, they will reach their full potential to live out their goals.
It is noteworthy that according to the most recent Asia university rankings in 2021, Hong Kong has three universities ranked among the top 10 and five among the top 25 in Asia. As an international city with a mere population of some 7.5 million, Hong Kong should take pride in this hard-won achievement. Alongside its strong academic standing, the city also boasts a solid foundation in scientific research. Given the outstanding academic and research performance of its higher education sector, Hong Kong will definitely have a significant role to play in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
“Be a Government Official for a Day” to be relaunched this summer
The summer holiday is around the corner and young people should plan ahead in order to enjoy a fulfilling and meaningful break. Launched under the “Life Buddies” Mentoring Scheme since 2018, the “Be a Government Official for a Day” Programme offers senior secondary students the opportunity to shadow senior government officials on the job for a day to gain hands-on experience of our work and a better understanding of the Government’s operation. It aims not only to facilitate our communication with young people, but also to inspire them to think about their future goals. The programme received an enthusiastic and positive response with a total of some 200 students participating in 2018 and 2019. Many of them indicated that they have been encouraged and inspired by senior government officials to become more proactive in planning for the future and going after their dreams.
Due to the severity of the COVID-19 epidemic, we could not but suspend the “Be a Government Official for a Day” Programme last year. As the epidemic has eased recently, the programme will be relaunched this summer. Recruitment and screening are scheduled for June and July respectively, and job shadowing will take place in August. The eligibility for this year’s programme is extended from secondary 4 to 6 students to include secondary 3 students so that more young people may have the opportunity to participate in this memorable venture. Invitations will be sent to all secondary schools this week. I will certainly take the lead in joining this meaningful programme.
Self-recommendation Scheme well-received
The application period of the Member Self-recommendation Scheme for Youth (MSSY) Phase IV just ended on May 26. With the number of participating committees increased from 10 to 151, this phase attracted an enthusiastic response of nearly 1 500 eligible applications. The recruitment assessment is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter this year. It is pleasing to see a good number of young people showing passion for social affairs and the development of Hong Kong.
To scout for talent more widely and encourage participation of young brains in public policy discussion and debate, the Government has regularised the Pilot MSSY and expanded its scope to cover more Government advisory committees. Young people aged between 18 and 35 aspiring to serve the community may self-nominate under the MSSY to become a member of a specified committee.
The MSSY received a total of over 5 300 applications in the past four phases of recruitment and appointed 70 members to 35 committees.
Youths are important stakeholders in the sustainable development of society. The HKSAR Government will continue to recruit, through various channels, more aspiring young people to tender advice to the Government for the future development of Hong Kong. We are confident of raising the overall percentage of youth members aged between 18 and 35 in Government committees to 15%, and meeting the target2 by mid-2022.
Young people exploring arts tech
Many young people take interest in arts. The integration of technology in various industries and sectors, including the arts industry, has become a major trend. Arts tech is such a new opportunity that provides the younger generation with more and greater room for development. On May 26, I was joined by members of the Youth Development Commission to visit the temporary “Pre-testbed Studio” set up by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department at Kwai Tsing Theatre. During the visit, they were able to experience arts tech first-hand and learn about the prospects of the industry as well as the possibilities that arts tech may bring to young people.
At the “Pre-testbed Studio”, presentations are given on the East Kowloon Cultural Centre to be open in 2023, “The Lab” which is designed for fostering the development of arts tech, as well as the equipment and technology related to arts tech for various industries and sectors. In addition to a guided visit, I also joined a group discussion and sharing session that evening to listen to members’ valuable opinions on how youth development opportunities can be further explored through technology and the application of arts tech in other areas.
A nation will prosper when its young people thrive. The HKSAR Government will continue to put extra resources into creating favourable conditions for promoting youth upward mobility, and seek to nurture a new generation possessing positive values, a propensity to observe etiquette and rules, the ability to distinguish right from wrong and a sense of social responsibility and showing genuine care about the country and affection for Hong Kong.
1 The 15 committees are:
(1) Advisory Committee on Built Heritage Conservation;
(2) Advisory Committee on Countryside Conservation;
(3) Assessment Panel of the Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living;
(4) Business Facilitation Advisory Committee;
(5) Chinese Language Interface Advisory Committee;
(6) Citizens Advisory Committee on Community Relations of the ICAC;
(7) Committee on Reduction of Salt and Sugar in Food;
(8) Energy Advisory Committee;
(9) Family Council;
(10) Hong Kong Maritime and Port Board;
(11) Joint Committee on Information Technology for the Social Welfare Sector;
(12) Quality Education Fund Dissemination and Promotion Sub-committee;
(13) Small and Medium Enterprises Committee;
(14) Steering Committee on the Child Development Fund; and
(15) Steering Committee on Promotion of Vocational and Professional Education and Training and Qualifications Framework.
2 Currently, about 4 600 members of the public have been appointed to serve on about 440 advisory and statutory bodies, taking up around 7 100 posts. The overall percentage of youth members (i.e. those aged between 18 and 35) has increased from 7.8% (or 464 members) in 2017 to the current level of 13.7% (or 861 members).