EOC sees increase in enquiries on SARS
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has received a total of 105 enquiries relating to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) as of 12:00 noon today (Friday, 4 April 2003).
"The trend clearly reflects that discriminatory acts and concerns about possible discrimination are on the rise. In the current crisis, the community needs to rally support for all patients and those at risk of SARS. Divisive attitudes such as condemnation would only create stigmatization, making surveillance, detection and seeking of treatment difficult and thus damaging the long term control of the disease," said Anna Wu, Chairperson of the EOC. She added, "The enquiries and complaints we have received cover many sectors which affect our daily lives. They include the travel industry, hotels, the work place, voluntary services and a funeral parlour."
Since Monday, 24 March 2003, the Commission has received the following:
Disability Discrimination Ordinance related enquiries 88
Sex Discrimination Ordinance related enquiries 12
Family Status Discrimination related enquiries 1
Total number of enquiries received 105
Initial enquiries include :
- a hotel employee asking if it is discriminatory to reject Hong Kong ID card holders who want to stay at the hotel,
- a volunteer serving those at risk of contracting SARS was asked by his employer to quit his volunteer service,
- airline staff wanted to find out if they had a right to wear a mask,
- a funeral home refused to receive the body of a SARS victim,
- an employer wondered if he could send a memo to his branch offices listing the name of a staff member who has been notified by the government to stay in quarantine. The staff member is on paid holiday, but has gone missing to avoid quarantine, and the employer was concerned that the staff member would pay social visits to the branch offices.
"Generally, people are worried about leave and dismissals, disclosure of health conditions or personal particulars, and pregnant staff are concerned about the need for protection," said Ms Wu. "Flexibility remains the key in providing a safe work environment for everybody. It may mean allowing sick workers or their associates and carers to go on paid leave, or letting pregnant staff to work on-line from home. The EOC will continue to monitor the situation and will provide information and deliver advice to employees, human resources practitioners and employers, as a result of which some have adapted their policies accordingly," she emphasized.
"The community needs to be rational and understanding of not only those in need, but also their associates, carers and volunteers," the Chairperson said.
The following services are provided to those who may require assistance:
1. The EOC Hotline: 2511-8211
2. The Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong Children Hotline: 2520 6800
3. Caritas SARS Emotional Support Hotline: 2337 5487
4. Hong Kong Young Women's Christian Association Helpline: 2711 6622
5. Evangelical Lutheran Church Social Service Hong Kong Emotional Support Hotline: 3124 7845
Enquiry: Mr. Sam HO 21062187