Coronavirus: HK domestic helper tests positive, taking total number of confirmed cases in city to 61

19-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A domestic helper whose employer was earlier diagnosed with the coronavirus has also been infected, taking the total number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong to 61, a source told the Post on Tuesday.

The Filipino woman was being treated at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan. She works for a 67-year-old woman who was confirmed as infected on February 13.

The latest victim initially tested negative for the virus, but returned a positive result three days later, the source said.

Health authorities previously revealed that the employer had been to a meal at Star Seafood Restaurant in North Point, which 29 people attended.

At least five other people who were there have already been diagnosed as infected.

Hong Kong is home to more than 380,000 foreign domestic workers. Of those, about 210,000 are from the Philippines, and the rest mostly from Indonesia.

The domestic worker community last month hit out at advice from the Labour Department that encouraged them to stay at home on their rest days as much as possible.

Some said the statement was discriminatory, as they said it insinuated their community was particularly prone to the virus.

Noting that anyone could contract the coronavirus, Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairwoman of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union, said she hoped the newest case would not fuel discrimination against domestic workers in the city.

“We should not be discriminated against because of something like this,” she said, adding that the case should not be used by employers or the local government to restrict the workers’ ability to rest.

“It’s still not appropriate to stop the domestic workers from going out and not giving a day off,” the union leader said.

She also hoped the news would not lead to an extension of the temporary travel ban from Manila on China, including Hong Kong and Macau.

“I hope that the ban is lifted soon,” she said. “Domestic workers, residents and students are being unable to return to Hong Kong… We demand our government allow the residents to return to Hong Kong and be reunited with their families. There are also many workers who are worried if they still have their jobs.”

Filipino community leaders on Monday met the country’s consul general in Hong Kong, Raly Tejada, handing over a joint petition signed by 134 migrant organisations in the city calling for the immediate lifting of the travel ban.

Balladares-Pelaez said some domestic workers had been neglected by their employers during the outbreak.

“There are domestic workers complaining they are not being given masks or had sanitisers while at home [doing their jobs]. This must be provided by employers,” she said. “Otherwise, we are forced to buy expensive masks. That is a problem for us because our wages are very low and it may cost us HK$300 to HK$400 a box.”

But Betty Yung Ma Shan-yee, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers’ Association, said many employers had provided workers with masks and sanitisers, adding that many also told the workers to minimise going out, in some cases buying enough groceries to last a week during each trip to the shops.

“Employers are concerned about the health of their workers because they live in the same house and have close contact,” she said.

Yung agreed with the Labour Department’s statement that domestic workers should stay at home on rest days, but said it was important for employers not to give them work to do on those days.

Meanwhile, Philippine consul general Raly Tejada said they were still trying to get an official confirmation from Hong Kong’s Department of Health.

“If indeed a Filipino is confirmed as infected, the consulate will spare no effort in rendering assistance,” he said. “Given that patients are under isolation, we will officially liaise with the Hong Kong health department on the health protocols in place so that we can be informed of the specific things we can do for our national.”

Tejada said the consulate had distributed about 18,000 masks so far to Filipino nationals in Hong Kong.

“We will soon give out more as soon as supplies are available. Rest assured that the Philippine government is doing its utmost best to procure more supplies,” he said.

There are about 219,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong. According to the consul general, available statistics show that seven domestic workers had been quarantined in the city and three of them have already been released.

“All are healthy and asymptomatic but were quarantined [after] having contacted [with] people that tested positive,” he said

On Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns in the Philippines, Dodo Dulay, announced that overseas Filipino workers could now return to Hong Kong and Macau for work, as they had been exempted from the coronavirus travel ban.


Category: Hong Kong

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