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100 OFWs flown home as flight ban from Manila takes effect

Posted on 20 April 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The airlift to Manila today was arranged by the Consulate, as was this flight in June last year

A total of 100 overseas Filipino workers were flown home today, Apr 20, just hours after a two-week flight ban imposed by Hong Kong on the Philippines took effect.

The information was disclosed by Consul Paul Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, who also said the Philippine Airlines plane that flew home the passengers had arrived from Manila loaded with just cargo.


The two-week suspension on all flights coming from the Philippines, India and Pakistan was announced by Hong Kong just a day before it took effect, and was imposed after the first two local cases of variant-carrying patients were found.  Local health officials said this was because the biggest number of imported cases found to carry the mutated virus had come from the three countries.


Saret said the flight carrying the stranded Filipino workers was booked earlier by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and was arranged by the Consulate directly with the airline.

The PAL plane landed earlier than its expected arrival time in Hong Kong of 9:55 this morning, according to the Hong Kong International Airport flight information website.

Pindutin para sa detalye

Two other cargo flights were also shown to have flown in from Manila today, one operated by Cebu Pacific and another by Hong Kong Airlines. It was not known if they had flown back to Manila with passengers, which is allowed despite the flight ban.

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Saret said the next PAL special flight for Manila will be on Apr 23, and it will also carry exactly 100 passengers, the maximum number allotted by the airline for its Hong Kong flights.

Philippine officials have limited the number of arrivals at Manila airport amid a surge in infections

Philippine authorities have limited the number of daily arrivals from abroad to just 1,500, since Mar 31, in an attempt to decongest the airport and prevent an overflow of people in designated quarantine facilities amid a surge in local infections.


Saret said the PCG has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to request PAL for an extra 150 seats for Hong Kong to bring home more stranded OFWs, with priority to the sick.

He said no OFWs were stranded at the Hong Kong airport this time because they had been forewarned of the flight ban. In the past months, last-hour airline flight cancellations had marooned dozens of homeward-bound OFWs.


Edwina Antonio, executive director of Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, said at least two migrant workers have asked for help because they could not book flights after being told by Hong Kong Immigration to go home.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong 

She advised them to talk to Immigration again so their visas could be extended until they could arrange for a flight home despite the ban.




Food hooks in hotel may have caused South African variant to spread

Posted on No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

'S' hooks used to deliver food boxes to guests is believed to be behind virus spread

“S” hooks used to deliver food to people quarantined at the Ramada Hong Kong Grand Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui may have caused a mutated form of the coronavirus to spread among at least three people quarantined there.

This was disclosed today, Apr 20, by Dr Chuang Shuk-wan of the Centre for Health Protection during the regular press briefing on the latest coronavirus situation in Hong Kong.


Chuang reported eight additional Covid-19 cases classified as three imported, four local, and one unclassified, referring to a 56-year-old woman who was on home quarantine after arriving from Fujian province.

The CHP official said that investigations into the case of the 29-year-old man classified as the first local case found to have the N501Y variant showed he could have been part of a cross-contamination that occurred at Ramada TST where he stayed for his 21-day quarantine.


Two other patients who had stayed on the same floor of the hotel during the time the Indian man was there were also found to have an almost identical genetic sequencing of the South African variant he carried.

Both patients were foreign domestic helpers, one a Filipina, and the other, Indonesian. One of them stayed in a room next door to the man, the other farther down the corridor.

Pindutin para sa detalye

As there were no signs that the virus could have spread through the hotel air conditioning system or the water pipes, Chuang said investigators concluded the virus could have spread through the hooks used for food delivery.

These “S” hooks were reportedly used to hang plastic bags containing the food delivered to guests, and which they also used to return lunch boxes used after each meal.

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“We suspected that the hooks were the source of cross infection,’ Chuang said.

She also disclosed that around 10 guests who had stayed on the same floor of the hotel since January had been found to have the variant. Experts are now doing genome sequencing on these cases to see if they were part of one big cluster.


Since this discovery, all hotels have been told to stop using the hooks for delivering food to guests, she added.

Among the local cases is an Indonesian DH who had quarantined at Ramada Grand

Among those who had stayed in Ramada TST at about the same time as the man from Dubai, but on a different floor, is a 29-year-old Indonesian FDH  who is among four local cases reported today.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong 

The Indonesian arrived on Mar 20, and after ending her 21-day quarantine, had moved into her employer’s house in Yau Tong. She was found infected on Apr 18, after submitting to compulsory testing.

The same transmission mode is suspected to have caused the virus to spread among three guests at Ramada Grand View in North Point earlier in March.


In this case, the virus found in a couple who flew in from Canada was found to have the same genetic sequencing as that carried by a Filipina domestic worker who had stayed in a room opposite to theirs.

Chuang said investigators had ruled out the possibility that the patient from Dubai had caught the mutated virus from his girlfriend with whom he lived in Jordan after his quarantine because the woman’s infection was deemed to be recent.

Because of this finding, everyone who had stayed in rooms on the same floor of Ramada TST from Mar 19 to Apr 9, when the index case was there, was moved to quarantine “just in case they were exposed to the same risk,” said Chuang.

Chuang says investigation on possible virus spread in Ramada hotels continues

The other imported cases today include two who were found infected while staying at Ramada in North Point. One is a 38-year-old FDH who arrived from the Philippines on Apr 6, and the other is a two-year-old boy who flew in from India with family members who were earlier found infected.

He was in the same Vistara flight, UK6395, where a total of 53 passengers have so far tested positive for Covid-19, said Chuang.

The third imported case is a two-year-old girl who had flown in from India and was found infected in a quarantine center where she was moved after some family members tested positive for the virus earlier.

Two other local cases, as well as the unclassified one, all live in Tsuen Wan, where a rash of cases with unknown sources has been reported recently. This prompted Chuang to admit that there seems to be an invisible transmission going on in the district.

The two local cases who live there are both women. One is 57 years, and the other, a 46-year-old who arrived from Shenzhen on Apr 6 and had worked in Nina Hotel from Apr 10 to 19.

The unclassified case involving a 57-year-old who arrived on Apr 6 from Fujian via Shenzhen, had also been staying in Tsuen Wan for her home quarantine.

Chuang said this was “quite likely an imported case but could also be local because there were some family members who were going in and out” of the house where she was staying.

The last local case involves a 41-year-old male construction worker who lives in Tai Wai.

No preliminary cases were reported.



Posted on No comments

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HK-bound workers despair as flight ban strands them in Manila

Posted on No comments

Vir B. Lumicao 

HK estimates about 1K FDHs have been affected by the flight suspensions

Filipino domestic workers who were due to fly to Hong Kong today or in the next few days have been taken by surprise by the government’s total ban on all flights from Manila for two weeks.

The affected workers said the ban was so unfair, especially for those who came from faraway provinces and had to stay in boarding houses in Manila while waiting for their flights.

It was not known how many Hong Kong-bound domestic helpers are stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport due to the ban, which was announced by the SAR government before midnight Sunday. 


However, Labour Secretary Lam Woon-kwong had said in an interview earlier htat about one thousand FDHs would be affected by any flight ban.

This time, there are no OFWs stranded at Hong Kong International Airport due to the flight ban, Consul General Raly Tejada said. But he said the Consulate is trying to find ways to bring home those who were unable to fly home.

“Rest assured that we are working on other ways of bringing our stranded people home,” ConGen Tejada said in a message. “Stranded passengers are advised to visit OWWA while those embarking on non-essential travel should reconsider their plans by canceling or postponing their flights home.”


The PCG issued an advisory Monday evening informing Filipinos here about Hong Kong’s decision and urged the public to adjust their travel plans.

The PCG advisory telling travelers to adjust their flight plan in light of the ban

The Filipino community is hereby informed of the Hong Kong government’s decision to designate the Philippines as an extremely high-risk place under the Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation (Cap. 599H).

As a result, all flights from the Philippines are prohibited from landing in Hong Kong for 14 days from midnight of Apr 20, the advisory read.

Pindutin para sa detalye

 “The Consulate therefore urges the public to make the necessary adjustment to their travel plans including cancellation or postponement of non-essential travel to the Philippines at this time,” the advisory said.

In Manila, a domestic helper posted a comment on The SUN’s Facebook page about how unfair the ban was on her and others who were just waiting to fly out to Hong Kong.

“The flight ban is too unfair for us domestic helpers who are just waiting for our flight schedule this week, then we read this news. It’s so disappointing,” the worker said.

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“We had been in a lockdown here in Manila for more than a month, we were unable to submit our visa and contract at POEA due to the lockdown here, the as soon as it has been downgraded to MGCQ, it’s you in Hong Kong who suspend out flight,” she said.

The worker said OFWs should be vaccinated before they leave because they go through a lot of hardships waiting for their documents before their departure date.

“They should have made the flight ban just for a week, two week is too much as our brains would be too depressed. We almost don’t know where to get money for our budget for daily food,” she said.


She said many OFWs like her who came from neighboring provinces have no money to pay for their boarding houses.

She said during their pre-departure orientation seminar arranged by different agencies, everyone was hopeful they could leave soon because their families rely on the money they would send home, and they have to repay the loans they used to pay the agencies.

The worker, a single mother, said her greatest fear now is that her employer might back out because the woman is expecting her baby sometime next month.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong 

Another worker said she was in the same situation, as her employer is due to give birth in June. She said she applied for the FDH job as early as last year but until now she was unable to leave for Hong Kong.

The workers said even their recruitment agencies in Manila were very eager to see them fly out. One said her agency helped her buy lots of ginger to prepare herself for the pre-departure swab test, and vitamin C to boost her immune system.

Ong says her travel business would be hit hard by the flight suspension

Cora Ong, manager of Tri-D Travel, said her air ticketing business had been affected by suspension of flights from Manila since the Covid-19 crisis began. She expects zero income now because of the flight ban.

“We’re also affected but what can we do? It’s a government policy,” Ong said.

She said ticketing orders by employment agencies have softened to about 20 to 30 a month because processing has slowed.

She said most of the ticket purchases are Hong Kong-bound, meant for new hires and those who had been terminated, gone home and are coming back to join new employers.

“Very few of the workers who are already here don’t want to go home for a vacation because the hotel quarantine is a big burden that the employer certainly doesn’t like,” Ong said.

She said her cargo company, Asian Dragon, still has modest income from the door-to-door business, but, from the ticketing operation it’s minimal. “If it’s a total ban, then we’ll have zero income from ticketing,” she said.

Ong said her company’s current worry is that Hong Kong might follow Macau in implementing a 28-day quarantine. “If they make the quarantine period 28 days, then the helpers won’t be able to go home for a vacation,” she said.


Prosecutors drop rape case vs African man in alley video scandal

Posted on 19 April 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The incident happened in the staircase of this building in the alleys

A rape case filed by a Filipina domestic helper against an African man who allegedly assaulted her sexually on a staircase in one of Central’s alleys has been dropped by the prosecution.

This has been confirmed by the Department of Justice, which said it could not continue pursuing the rape complaint against the suspect, Obi Collins, due to insufficient evidence.

“Having thoroughly considered the evidence in the case, the applicable law and the Prosecution Code, the Department of Justice considered that there was insufficient evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction, and thus decided to discontinue the prosecution,” a DOJ spokesman said in reply to a query from The SUN Hong Kong.


The complainant, who had initially sought help from The SUN, said she did not wish to pursue the case as she feared losing her job. She also said she was disappointed that some of her friends who were with her that day did not want to speak up.

Collins was charged with rape in Eastern Court on July 15 last year for allegedly waylaying the helper on the fifth floor staircase of Fai Man Building on 13 Li Yuen St West, one of the two narrow passages that Filipinos call “alley-alley”.

CG Tejada says Filipinos should go to the Consulate if they get into trouble

The case was last slated for mention at Eastern Court 1 on Dec 21, 2020, but nothing was heard about it since. The police did not want to comment when contacted for a follow-up, and referred the inquiry to the DOJ.


Consul General Raly Tejada said that when Filipinos find themselves in situations such as this, they should assert their rights, call the police right away and go to a medical check-up for evidence to be collected and preserved for trial, and seek help from the Consulate.

“My message to our Kababayans is to assert their rights at all times. The Consulate is here to assist and provide necessary guidance to all Filipinos in Hong Kong who will face a similar situation,” ConGen Tejada said when asked to comment on the dismissal of the case.

"Sa mga susuong sa ganitong pagsubok, magpakatatag lang po and maghain ng reklamo at the earliest possible opportunity,” he said. (To those who go through this kind of ordeal, just stay strong and file a complaint at the earliest possible opportunity.)

Pindutin para sa detalye

“Make sure to go to a doctor to undergo forensic examination so that any evidence collected can be properly preserved and presented at trial. Rest assured that PCG will be assisting you all the way,” ConGen Tejada said.

Two weeks ago, the leader of an African community group in Hong Kong bragged about the acquittal of the suspect in his weekly online video program, saying that the innocent African boy was vindicated.

The program host, who calls himself Capo Daniel, added that Hong Kong police are quick to arrest Africans for crimes that they have not committed.

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He said that the rape charge was dropped after the Philippine Consulate talked to the woman and asked her to withdraw the case.

Consul Paul Saret, head of the assistance to nationals section, denied this. “I wasn’t even aware that a rape case was filed until you asked me about it because the alleged rape victim did not come to us to ask for help,” Saret said.

The case stemmed from a video that went viral online showing a burly black man and a Filipina who appeared to be having sexual intercourse in the dimly lit staircase of Fai Man Building. The building had no security guards and no CCTV cameras on the staircase.


Somebody who filmed the episode from the top of the stairs with a phone camera posted the footage online, calling it the “Alley-alley Scandal”. Since then, it had been shared many times over and viewed by thousands of individuals.

Street sign on the alley where it happened

The Filipina woman in the video complained to the police accompanied by her employer, who was reportedly appalled by what happened. That was the reason she did not go to the Consulate anymore, she said.

She said the assault happened after she and some female friends went to celebrate a birthday in a pub operated by Filipinos on the fifth floor of the building. They had been drinking alcohol. There was a group of black men including the suspect sitting at a table nearby.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong 

She said the men were trying to chat with her group but the Filipinas ignored them and continued their celebration. Around 7pm, the alleged victim stood up and bade her friends goodbye because she had had enough drinks and her curfew was early.

The woman walked groggily to the lift but it was in use, so she took the stairs. She said she didn’t notice when Collins followed her and grabbed her while she going down the staircase, and started raping her. She said she was too drunk to resist.

In previous videos on the Afri Kong group’s Facebook page, who claims to be the defense chief of the Ambazonia Defense Force, had also boasted that African men are being chased and fought over by Filipinas in Hong Kong.

He accompanied his claim with a video showing two Filipina helpers fighting fiercely on Chater Road in Central over what the man said was an African man.


12 new Covid-19 cases reported, including 2 Filipina DHs with variant

Posted on No comments

By The SUN

The 2 Filipina DHs with the variant had flown in via CX 906

Twelve additional cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) were reported today, Apr 19, all but one of them imported.

The only local case was linked to an earlier cluster of infections detected at Oi Fai House in Tuen Mun.

Of the 11 imported cases, three were also found to carry the highly infectious N501Y variant, including two foreign domestic helpers from the Philippines, aged 35 and 36; and a year-old baby boy from India.


The two Filipina DHs triggered a two-week suspension of Cathay Pacific flight CX 906 starting today as it carried at least two passengers who tested positive on arrival on two different flights from Manila. The flights arrived on Apr 14 and 17.

Since the FDHs were also the 4th and 5th passengers from the Philippines found to be carrying the variant on arrival, a total flight ban on the Philippines would have taken effect.


But this was superseded by last night’s decision by the Department of Health to impose the two-week flight suspension on all flights not just from the Philippines, but also from India and Pakistan.

This was prompted by fears that the mutated virus had spread within the community after an Indian man who had flown in from Dubai was found to have the variant  10 days after being released from his 21-day hotel quarantine.


His girlfriend with whom he had stayed in a flat in Jordan after his quarantine was also found to carry the variant, the second local case detected.

This prompted health officials to clamp down on the three countries from where the most number of imported cases with the variant had come from recently, relegating them to the “extremely high risk” category, and imposing a flight ban on them for 14 days.

Pindutin para sa detalye

Aside from the two FDHs, one other passenger from the Philippines was found infected on arrival on Apr 18. The 44-year-old female resident came in via Cebu Pacific flight 5J 272.

There were also six other passengers from India who were found infected, apart from the baby who tested positive for the mutated form of coronavirus on his 12th day sample.

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Three of them all took Vistara’s flight UK 6397 which arrived yesterday, comprising two females aged 22 and 53, and a 32-year old male.

Another passenger from India, a 27-year-old man, arrived on Apr 17 via flight QR818, and tested positive at the airport. The two remaining ones both tested positive on their second sample taken on the 12th day of their hotel quarantine, a 45-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man.

More residents have been evacuated from Oi Fai House after a new infection was found

Today’s sole local case prompted the evacuation of  all remaining asymptomatic residents on the 8th floor of block 2 of Oi Fai House, Yau Oi Estate, who will all be sent to quarantine centers. Those found with symptoms will be sent to hospital for treatment.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong 

One preliminary case was reported today, involving a 31-year-old woman who works at a clinic in The Centrium on Wyndham Street in Central. She is linked to the woman living on Parkes Building who was reported positive yesterday.

All her close contacts, including fellow staff and patients, have been sent to quarantine, while the building was put under compulsory testing notice.

Meanwhile, the government said a 21-year-old female kindergarten teacher who was listed as a preliminary case on Apr 17 by the Centre for Health Protection has not been confirmed to have the virus.

A sample taken from yielded an indeterminate result after being tested by the Public Health Laboratory Services Branch of the Department of Health. Further tests on her at a hospital showed she was negative for Covid-19 and did not have antibodies.

“As such, the case will not be classified as a confirmed case at the moment,” said the government statement.

CHP had earlier said that about 100 people deemed to be close contacts of the kindergarten teacher had been sent to quarantine, including fellow guests at a wedding banquet where about 200 guests had gathered.


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