Domestic workers in Hong Kong. Photo: Asia Times
Domestic workers in Hong Kong. Photo: Asia Times

Lawmakers and employer groups have urged the Hong Kong government to set up a centralized quarantine center for thousands of Filipino domestic workers due to arrive in the city soon.

Raly Tejada, Consul-General of the Philippines in Hong Kong, said about 12,600 Filipino domestic workers would come to Hong Kong over the coming few weeks.

Of these, 7,909 are newly hired while another 4,755 have renewed contracts. Tejada said the consulate was talking to the government, employment agencies and employer groups about quarantine arrangements for these workers.

Many Hong Kong people have raised concerns about the risks of the spread of Covid-19 after seven people from the Philippines tested positive this month. Five were domestic workers.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection said two people who came from the Philippines on Tuesday were infected. A 47-year-old Filipino domestic worker who stayed in the Philippines from March 8 to June 23 recently developed a cough and a runny rose, and tested positive at Asia World-Expo and was sent to the Princess Margaret Hospital.

A 55-year-old man who stayed in the Philippines between last August and June 23 was identified as a Covid-19 patient due to his fever after he arrived at Hong Kong International Airport. It was said that he had a stroke in late May and was treated in hospital in the Philippines. He had a fever from June 13.

After his arrival, he was sent to the Princess Margaret Hospital in serious condition and died of sepsis early on Wednesday early morning. He was the seventh Covid-19 patient to die in Hong Kong.

On Friday, three more imported cases from Pakistan were recorded in Hong Kong, bringing the total to 1,196.

Meanwhile, the Macau government announced that a 57-year-old Filipino man, who traveled from Manila to Hong Kong on CX906 on Thursday morning and transited to the gaming city by ferry at 2pm, tested positive for the coronavirus. He has become the 46th patient in Macau and the first infected person in the city over the last 77 days.

On Friday, Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, a member of the New People’s Party, urged the Hong Kong government to take the initiative to set up a centralised quarantine center or arrange accommodations in hotels for thousands of newly arrived foreign domestic workers during their 14-day quarantine periods.

Yung said the virus could spread because most local families did not have separate bathrooms or bedrooms for domestic workers. She said also that the government should provide financial support to these domestic workers’ employers, who would have to spend about HK$6,000 (US$774) due to the quarantine requirements.

Yung’s comments echoed several employer groups that urged the government to handle the issue earlier this month.

Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers’ Association chairman Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee said the government should not underestimate the risk of an outbreak in local families. Yung said if some of the 12,000 domestic workers were infected, their employers’ families, mostly with elderly, newborns or pregnant women, could become ill.

Yung slammed the government for failing to discuss this public health matter with employment agencies and employer groups.

Those who have been working in Hong Kong have different views on the issue. Marlita, who has worked in Hong Kong for 14 years, told that it would be good for Filipinos to stay in the country for the moment. She said she has postponed her plan to spend her holidays in the Philippines to next year but will keep sending masks to her home town.

Arlene Romio, who has worked in Hong Kong for 17 years, said she was not worried that she would be infected by her compatriots because infected people would be identified during the 14-day quarantine period. She said she would keep reminding her friends to wear masks despite hot weather.

Since the Philippine government began allowing newly hired domestic workers to travel to the territory on June 1, it has been reported that some have been deprived of sufficient food, denied their full pay and been forced to stay in overcrowded quarantine facilities.

The Labor Department said employers should provide their workers with accommodation and food during the quarantine period.

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