HK’s revamped travel rules a ‘relief’ to stranded domestic workers, but concerns remain over recognition of jabs

04-Aug-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s revamped quarantine rules for inbound travellers will come as a “relief” to domestic workers stuck overseas, but there are still hurdles to solving a local labour shortage, such as authorities’ reluctance to recognise foreign vaccination records, a representative has said.

The government on Monday said it would consolidate its five-tier coronavirus risk assessment system into one with just three levels, thereby effectively removing entry bans on Brazil, Britain, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. The new measures would take effect next Monday, sources said.

Domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines both of which were previously categorised under the highest level of risk had been barred from entering Hong Kong, but will be able to come to the city under the new rules as long as they were vaccinated here.

Helpers between contracts who are still in the city will also be able to travel home and return as long as they, too, were immunised in Hong Kong. All of them will be required to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said the latest move would be a “relief” for Filipino domestic helpers who had been stranded in Manila for months.

“There is a risk of them potentially losing their jobs, [so] this is a really welcome development,” he said.

Employer groups, meanwhile, have taken issue with the government’s reluctance to accept domestic workers who were inoculated in their home countries, noting the prevailing flight ban had created a labour shortage in Hong Kong. There are about 400,000 domestic workers in the city.

Mike Cheung Chung-wai, president of the Overseas Employment Centre, said the changes would not only offer hope to clients who had been trying to hire workers, but would also be a financial boon to his agency.

Still, Cheung said it was not helpful for the government to continue to reject vaccination records from countries like Indonesia and the Philippines over concerns they could be faked.

“We’re hopeful that [the government] can accept antibody tests that they can administer at the airport,” he said, adding the checks would immediately show whether a worker was really inoculated.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents who are currently stranded in Britain have said they still harbour mixed feelings about returning to the city given the lengthy quarantine requirement.

While the new rules will bring an end to a flight ban in place since July 1 at least for vaccinated Hong Kong residents arrivals from Britain will still have to quarantine for 21 days in a designated hotel.

“For me and my wife, I can’t decide if we should sit it out here in England or try and return via a third country. If [the relaxations are] for sure, then we will wait here a bit longer,” said 62-year-old Richard Langford, a Hong Kong permanent resident who has been stuck in Britain since June.

Langford and his wife had to fly back to Britain due to an urgent family matter and were aware that there was a risk they could be stuck there. They were supposed to fly back last weekend, but their flight got cancelled.

Returning via a third country could mean a shorter quarantine period, but there was an added Covid-19 risk if that country saw a spike in infections, he added.

For Kelly Tse, a 22-year-old health care student living in Norwich, the latest developments were good news, as she planned to return after completing her placement in mid-September.

“I have already booked a hotel for the 21-day quarantine and I am very happy about being allowed to travel back to Hong Kong,” she said.

“I haven’t finished my placement yet, so I’m not stranded. But I’m just worried about plans [changing unexpectedly].”

Separately, authorities on Monday said full-day classes at local schools could resume as early as next month if 70 per cent of students and teachers were immunised against Covid-19. The group’s current vaccination rate stands at 47 per cent.

Welcoming the arrangement, Lin Chun-pong, chair of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, said priority should be given to Form Six students who had missed months of face-to-face sessions over the past year and would be sitting for university entrance examinations in 2022.

“Schools should have time to prepare and communicate with parents of different grades and reach a consensus before September,” Lin said. “If only 70 per cent of teachers met the threshold but not students, full resumption would not be able to happen.”


Category: Hong Kong

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