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Posted on 09 December 2021 No comments

 


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Filipina DH saves self, baby ward from kidnappers

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By Daisy CL Mandap 

The Filipina and her ward were forced into a car on Victoria Road in Kennedy Town

Quick thinking by a 39-year-old Filipina domestic worker helped save herself and the 19-month-old baby girl in her care from potential harm from kidnappers.

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A police report issued today, Dec 9, said they arrested a 42-year-old man earlier this morning in connection with the alleged abduction of the helper and the toddler on Wednesday in Pok Fu Lam.

The police confirmed to The SUN that the helper is a Filipina.

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The report said a passerby had called police at around 8am on Wednesday, saying the two alleged victims were dragged into a private car on Victoria Road, which then sped towards Cyberport Road.

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Subsequently police received a report that the helper was heard calling for help in Pat Heung, Yuen Long. Officers were immediately dispatched and the helper and the toddler were rescued.

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“The victims have slight redness and swelling on their hands and have been discharged from the hospital after receiving treatment,” said the police report.

“After investigation, the case was classified as an attempted kidnapping and was handed over to the Regional Crime Squad of Hong Kong Island for investigation.”

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Officers have arrested a local Chinese man in Kwu Tung, Sheung Shui at about 5:30am today, according the report.

The man is still being detained for questioning and the police have not ruled out making further arrests.

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Filipina DH due to end quarantine today among 7 new Covid-19 cases

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By Daisy CL Mandap 

The Filipina DH was confirmed to have Covid-19 on the eve of her release from Penny's Bay

A 36-year-old Filipina domestic helper who was a day away from finishing her compulsory 21-day quarantine at Penny’s Bay is among seven new Covid-19 cases reported today, Dec 9.

Records from the Centre for Health Protection showed the worker arrived from the Philippines on Nov 19 aboard 5J272, which means she should have ended her quarantine today.

But as of midnight last night, she was listed as among those confirmed to have the coronavirus with the L452R mutant strain.

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This is not the first time a Filipina DH staying at Penny’s Bay was tested positive close to ending her compulsory quarantine. On Nov 30, another Filipina was found infected a day before she was due to be released from quarantine.

There has been no word from CHP on the unusual occurrence, especially now that the coronavirus is often detected within a week of the patient arriving in Hong Kong.

All of today’s new cases carried the L452R mutant strain, and all were fully vaccinated. Four tested positive on arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, two during their hotel quarantine, while the Filipina was the only one at Penny’s Bay.

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They took Hong Kong’s total Covid-19 tally to 12,479.

Among the five other new cases, two were in Hong Kong during the 21-day incubation period as determined by local experts.

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They include a 39-year-old man who left Hong Kong on Nov 22 for Denmark and returned to Hong Kong from Germany via the United Kingdom on Dec 5 aboard flightVS 206. He tested negative on arrival but he developed symptoms on Dec 7 while at Regal Oriental Hotel in Kowloon and his specimen  was positive for Covid-19.

As he lives in a house on Shouson Hill no compulsory testing notice was issued for his residence. But the places where he worked and visited will be put under CTN.

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The other case involves another 39-year-old man who lives in Po Shan Mansion in Taikoo Shing and works at Ocean Park Marriot Hotel. He left Hong Kong on Nov 20 for the Czech Republic via Germany, and returned via the same route on Nov 29. He tested negative on arrival in Hong Kong.

However, his sample on day 9 of his quarantine at Dorsett Hotel in Tsuen Wan tested positive with a high viral load, and carried the mutant strain.

The place where he lived and worked during the incubation period have been included in a CTN.

Today’s three other patients all flew in on Dec 7 and tested positive on their arrival test. They include a 49-year-old woman who came from the UK on flight VS206, a 57-year-old woman who flew in from Thailand on EK384, and a 30-year-old man who came from Pakistan via Turkey on TK083.

Air India flights from Delhi are banned anew for 2 weeks 

Meanwhile, Air India flights from Delhi, India have been suspended for two weeks starting today. CHP said the airline’s Dec 5 flight had one passenger who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival, while another failed to comply with pre-boarding requirements.

CHP also reminded the public that anyone who resided or worked in the same building as a confirmed Covid-19 case with a mutant strain will be subject to compulsory testing on specified dates as announced by the Department of Health. They will also be required to undergo self-monitoring for 21 days from the date specified in the CTN.

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The relevant information can be found here: www.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/CTN_Specified_premises_and_Dates_of_Testing.pdf).

Those covered by a CTN previously issued on The Kimberley Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui are reminded to undergo testing by tomorrow, Dec. 10.

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Duterte signs EO creating already half-completed OFW Hospital

Posted on 08 December 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The OFW hospital in Pampanga has been under construction for more than a year

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order hastening the establishment of the 100-bed Overseas Filipino Workers Hospital, which will cater to the health-care needs of OFWs and their families, Malacañang said.

Construction of the facility was underway long before Duterte signed on Tuesday Executive Order No. 154, which called for setting up the hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Officials now say the target date of completion for the hospital is just before the presidential election in May next year. It is still not clear if OFWs can get treated there for free, or with a special discount.

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An OFW leader in Hong Kong welcomed the project but said the facility should not be run like a private hospital that charges migrant workers and their families exorbitant fees.

“Ang problema talaga ay hindi kaya ng mga OFW at mga pamilya nila ang magpagamot sa mga ospital dahil sa taas ng singil ng mga ito. Sa dami ng binabayaran mula sa sahod nila, tulad ng mandatory membership sa PhilHealth, ay wala nang natitira para sa pagpapagamot,” said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chair of United Filipinos in Hong Kong.

(The real problem is OFWs and their families can’t afford to go to the hospitals for medical treatment due to the high charges. With lots of fees they are paying out of their low salary, such as the mandatory PhilHealth membership, nothing is left for their medical needs.)

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Pelaez also said more OFW hospitals should be set up around the country, instead of just one place, because migrant workers and other poor families cannot afford the fees at existing hospitals.

EO 154 describes OFWs as “unsung modern-day heroes of the Philippines as they brave living and working in a foreign land to support their families back home and their regular remittances have contributed to the stability and growth of the Philippine economy.”

“The establishment of a specialty government hospital primarily devoted to OFWs will recognize the valuable contribution of Filipino migrant workers and alleviate their health problems and concerns,” EO 154 reads.

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The executive order also creates the Inter-Agency Committee on the OFW Hospital, which will help establish and operate the health institution. The ICOH will be headed by the secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment and co-chaired by the Secretary of Health.

Members include the administrators of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and two representatives of land-based and sea-based OFWs.

Funding for the establishment and initial operation of the OFW Hospital will be charged against available appropriations of the DOLE, the executive order states.

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The ICOH or the Board of Trustees will coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management to ensure that subsequent funding requirements of the hospital will be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Labor, Malacanang and Pagcor officials launched the hospital construction in Nov last year

A DOLE official said earlier that work on the OFW Hospital is already 49% done and the facility can be completed before the national elections next May. It was initially set to be inaugurated this quarter.

Labor Undersecretary Renato Ebarle had said the EO would address the delay in the opening of the OFW Hospital, as the bidding process for the supply of medical equipment could not start immediately.

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Ebarle said a Php200 million donation from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) for buying the medical equipment could not be touched due to legal concerns.

Cabinet secretary and acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said in a statement the facility aims to cater to the health-care needs of OFWs and their qualified dependents.

It also seeks to promote and publish scientific research on the occupational diseases common to OFWs, as well as assist universities and other institutions in their studies on the workers’ health-related concerns, he said.

Duterte had previously pushed for the establishment of a Department of OFWs, which would also be headed concurrently by the DOLE secretary. However, no new updates have been issued concerning the project.

A kickoff ceremony was held on Nov 20 last year to officially mark the construction of the OFW hospital on a two-hectare land donated by the provincial government of Pampanga.

The construction was funded by a P500 million donation from Bloomberry Cultural Foundation Inc., a unit set up by the operator of Solaire Resort and Casino.

But legal hurdles appear to have arisen from Pagcor’s pledge to buy state-of-the-art medical equipment for the hospital.

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No new case of Covid-19, but 1 re-positive case detected

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By The SUN 

CHP says a man who tested preliminary positive last night was a re-positive case

The Centre for Health Protection has recorded no new confirmed case of Covid-19 today, Dec. 8, keeping Hong Kong’s total tally at 12,472.

However, a suspected re-positive case involving a 61-year-old male patient who arrived in Ghana on Nov 16 has been reported.

The patient, who was asymptomatic, stayed at Silka Far East Hotel in Tsuen Wan for his 14-day compulsory quarantine on Nov 30, with all his tests showing negative results.

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After completing his quarantine, he moved to Kimberley Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, and in line with quarantine restrictions, he underwent another test on Dec 6. The result was  positive for Covid-19, with the L452R mutant strain. However, he had a low viral load.

Initial investigations by the CHP showed the patient, who was fully vaccinated with Sinopharm in the mainland on May 18 and Jun 17, tested positive for Covid-19 in Ghana in September this year.

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CHP decided that this is a re-positive case, after reviewing epidemiological, clinical and laboratory findings. But it is still following up the case with Ghana’s health authority.

As a precaution, the places where he resided and visited in Hong Kong during the incubation period, including the seventh floor of Immigration Tower, have been included in a compulsory testing notice.

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In a separate statement, Immigration said it had already conducted thorough cleaning and sterilisation of the seventh floor offices, and arranged staff of the concerned offices to undergo testing.

The CHP said that as a reminder, all persons who resided or worked in the same building as Covid-19 patients with mutant strains will be subject to compulsory testing on specified dates in accordance with the Department of Health requirement.

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They should also undergo self-monitoring until the 21st day  (see the details of the buildings and dates of testing at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/CTN_Specified_premises_and_Dates_of_Testing.pdf).


Only four people may dine together still, and they must use the LHS app

Meanwhile, gathering restrictions that allow only up to four people to get together in public, have been extended for another two weeks, from Dec 9 to 23.

Also on Dec 9, everyone who enters specified private venues such as restaurants, sports facilities, cinemas, beauty and massage parlours, should use the LeaveHomeSafe app before being allowed entry. The same rule was applied to all public venues earlier.

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The only exceptions are children and teens 15 years and below, elderly people aged 60 and above, those with a disability, or indigents who do not own smart phones.

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Succor of distressed migrant workers in dire straits amid huge deficits

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By Vir B. Lumicao 

Bethune House and clients: They need more kind-hearted donors to help the shelter cope with $700k deficit

Two leading sanctuaries of distressed migrant workers in Hong Kong are themselves appealing for financial help after their resources were depleted by a surge of troubled domestic helpers seeking assistance.

Mission for Migrant Workers is seeking to plug its $150,000 budget deficit this year by launching its annual Charity Raffle Draw, which will end on Dec 19.

Its shelter, Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, is separately embarking on its “Raise the Roof” fundraiser in a bid to close a $700,000 deficit it incurred while responding to urgent calls for assistance from helpers in distress.

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Its target:  a whopping $2 million.

Both institutions said their expenses ballooned this year due to more displaced MDWs knocking on their doors, day or night, amid a rise in job terminations as the pandemic conditions strain employer-helper relations. 

Add to this the SOS calls from newly arrived workers who came unprepared for the often unpalatable, if not strange, meals served at most quarantine sites, or the inadequate water and food supplies given them.

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The situation is dire at Bethune House, whose general manager Edwina Antonio is staring at a yawning budget hole. 

Antonio says a surge in the number of migrants needing help has left them struggling to cope with expenses

“We’re still facing a $700,000 deficit for 2021, that’s why we have a Christmas emergency appeal,” said Antonio. She said the shelter’s monthly operating expenses  reach about $250,000 as it supports many more workers outside Bethune.

“In the first quarter of 2021, we supported more than 400 with food and shelter outside Bethune House, those whom we could not accommodate in our shelter due to social distancing,” Antonio said.

She said the burden is heavy. She expressed hope corporate sponsors will come to the shelter’s aid to help tide it over.

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“I also wish the regular monthly donors of Bethune House increase, so that funding is better assured if there is regularity monthly,” Antonio said.

She said since the pandemic began in early 2020, the number of migrant workers and other people seeking help from Bethune had quadrupled, tripling its budgetary needs.

Antonio said that aside from the 26 residents now accommodated in its two shelters, Bethune House still has 22 workers billeted in hostels who also need to be provided for, not just for meals but also for visa fees and transport money.

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This season, Bethune House is stepping up its donation campaign by highlighting what the shelter does to advance the cases of its wards while teaching them skills that they could use to find jobs when they exit the domestic labor market.

"Migrant workers are vital to Hong Kong society in supporting local families and the community. They care for us and now we need to care for them as well,” Bethune House says in its appeal for donations in its “Raise the Roof” campaign.

“Neglecting migrant workers at this time hurts our community here in Hong Kong. As we continue to fight the global pandemic, we must continue to support those who have continued to care for us for so long,” the shelter says.

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The church-based Mission, meanwhile, said its costs have nearly doubled from pre-pandemic levels due to strong demand for its services.

Tellez hopes a raffle draw will cover Mission's $150k budget shortfall

General manager Cynthia Abdon-Tellez said on Dec 6 that she hopes the raffle draw will raise enough funds to help cover its $150,000 budget shortfall.

“We are trying all kinds of fundraising so that we could fill our budget gap,” said Tellez, who added in jest that they at Mission will even to do high-wire dancing if needed.

Tellez said everyone did not expect the pandemic to last this long. In fact, she said, the Mission had a buffer set aside, but that has now been depleted after the Covid-19 contagion hit, and lasted far longer than anyone was prepared for.

The Mission’s expenses nearly doubled since the pandemic began, for the same reasons cited by Bethune’s Antonio.

Apart from the regular counseling the Mission gives, it also looks after workers undergoing treatment in hospital for serious illnesses as they are at risk of being dismissed by their employers once they have used up their sick leave benefits.

“We try to persuade the employers not to cut their visa so that they can still enjoy subsidized treatment. But there are employers who refuse to do so,” Tellez said.

Tellez said the Mission has one major corporate sponsor, but she does not expect it to be there all the time. Besides, its contribution has already been exhausted by the unexpected expenses, thus the need to launch a fundraiser like the annual raffle draw, she said.

Sale of the raffle tickets began on Oct 25. It will end at 5pm on Dec 19. Winners will be starting 6pm of Dec 19 at Our Centre, St John’s Cathedral, 4-8 Garden Road, Central.  

The top prize is an Acer Swift 3 laptop valued at $6,000; the second is a 45-hour feast staycation package for two persons worth $1,961; two Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches worth a total of $2,800 are also at stake.

The prizes include three Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G smart phones worth $3,900; a three-course executive lunch for two worth $1,074; and four Xiaomi Mi Air SE true wireless headsets worth $800 in total.

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