The decision would have barred affected holders from visiting premises such as shopping centres, supermarkets and restaurants under the vaccine pass scheme, which regulates entry based on vaccination status.
Anne Chee, a principal medical and health officer at the Department of Health, acknowledged in a court statement that “some of these [certificates] may be genuine and their holders may have valid reasons for exemption”.
A day before the 20,000 exemptions were to be rescinded on October 12, Mr Justice Russell Coleman granted an application by serial litigant Kwok Cheuk-kin to restrain authorities from putting the decision into effect.
In making the temporary order, Coleman observed a strong argument that the health secretary had no power to overturn or invalidate an exemption certificate or a selection of such documents, which would in effect constitute “an exception to the exception” created by public health regulations.
Police arrested six doctors last month for allegedly issuing vaccination exemption letters without conducting proper consultations. Two of the six doctors have been charged, with a seventh practitioner still wanted by the force.
At least 26 patients, including five government employees, who were alleged to have bought the documents, have also been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.