HK coronavirus: 800 quarantine rooms for domestic helpers gone within minutes of becoming available

15-Sep-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

A Hong Kong quarantine facility offering 800 places for the swelling number of foreign domestic workers headed back to the city was fully booked within minutes of its online reservation system opening on Tuesday morning.

Users were allowed to start waiting 45 minutes before attempting to snare one of the spots dedicated to inbound workersmainly arrivals from the Philippines and Indonesiaat the government’s Penny’s Bay quarantine facility.

The booking system, which was offering rooms from September 20, opened at 9am on Tuesday, with online queues forming even earlier. By 9.30am, a Post reporter was unable to access the system at all.

“The centre only accepts bookings until October 19, and was fully booked within five minutes,” Cheung Kit-man, chair of Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association, said.

Even after a reservation has been successfully submitted online, the application does not necessarily guarantee a room reservation, according to a notice on the system.

The Labour Department must then process the applications to verify the travel documents and vaccination records of the helper.

The entire process can take up to three to four days, with a call from the department to confirm the reservation. A 21-day quarantine stay at the government-run facility, including three meals per day, costs HK$10,080 (US$1,295).

But as the facility does not have Wi-fi, helpers have been told to bring their own mobile phone and charger, along with a functioning SIM card, so they can communicate with health authorities.

The Hong Kong government announced on Friday that the Lantau Island facility would begin operating as quarantine accommodation for fully vaccinated foreign domestic workers, after complaints that the more expensive 409-room Silka Tsuen Wan hotel had been fully booked.

The Silka, which charges HK$800 per night, was fully booked within 24 hours of its reservation system opening. Before Tuesday, it was the sole quarantine possibility for incoming workers after the government’s decision to begin recognising vaccination records from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Previous coronavirus travel bans on those destinationsthe two countries that supply most of the city’s foreign domestic workersled to a labour shortage in the sector and complaints from employment agencies and would-be employers alike.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in late August that the special arrangement of allowing workers from the two high-risk destinations had to be “rationed and controlled”.

More to follow…


Category: Hong Kong

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