Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Photo: Asia Times

The Hong Kong government will allow local employers to extend the employment contracts for their Filipino domestic workers up to the end of May because the supply of new workers has been suspended.

The Labor Department in Hong Kong gave in-principle consent for all foreign domestic workers’ contracts that expire on or before March 31 to be extended up to May 31, the government said in a statement.

The contract change should be mutually agreed by both the employer and the domestic worker, it said. The government said employers could apply directly to the Director of Immigration for extensions of stay for their domestic workers.

Under the current rules, an employer can extend the period of employment by not more than one month by mutual agreement between the employer and the domestic worker, and with approval from the Director of Immigration.

By launching the new measure, the government aimed to assist those families with the need to extend the contract with their current domestic worker for more than one month.

“We hope that the flexibility arrangement can help the families affected by the situation so that they can continue to retain their current domestic workers temporarily while waiting for the new workers that they hired or intend to hire to report for duty upon the lifting of the ban by the Philippine Government,” said a spokesman of the Hong Kong government.

The Hong Kong government said it had been liaising closely with the Philippine Consulate-General to put across a clear message to the Philippine government that the temporary flight ban should be lifted as soon as possible. It said it had already put in place comprehensive and effective measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in the community.

The new rule was announced after a meeting between officials of the Hong Kong and Philippine governments on Tuesday afternoon. Hong Kong officials failed to persuade the Philippine government to exempt domestic workers from the Philippines’ newly-launched travel ban to Hong Kong.

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said in a statement on its Facebook page that “no Filipinos are allowed to travel back to China, Macau ad Hong Kong at this time.” It also said “Filipinos are allowed to travel back to the Philippines, subject to 14-day quarantine.”

Since the Philippine government on Sunday announced a ban on its people going to China, Hong Kong and Macau, close to 1,000 Filipino domestic workers were reportedly waiting to depart from Manila airport.

From Wednesday, Indonesia barred entry to visitors who had been in China for 14 days and would stop all flights to and from there. Ida Fauziyah, Indonesia’s Manpower Minister, said the Southeast Asian country would stop sending migrant workers to China and impose tighter measures for workers who want to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In a video conference, Fauziyah told Indonesian officials in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea to reduce the number of Indonesians going to work in the five places.

On Tuesday, a 44-year-old Indonesian domestic worker in Singapore was confirmed to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus. She is now being treated under quarantine at the Singapore General Hospital. The total number of coronavirus cases in Singapore rose to 24 as of Wednesday.

Almost all Hong Kong people now wear masks on the streets. Photo: RTHK

In Hong Kong, three new cases of Wuhan virus infections were recorded on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 21, six of which were categorized as local infections.

The Hong Kong government on Wednesday said it would quarantine anyone who arrives in the territory from the mainland for 14 days, in light of the widespread coronavirus outbreak in the country. The new measures will come into effect on Saturday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the situation in Hong Kong was getting worse as community transmission could have happened.

Read: HK maids stranded in Manila due to travel ban

Read: First Wuhan virus death reported in Hong Kong

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