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Another bar staff infected as Pinay discharged from hospital

Posted on 06 April 2020 No comments
By The SUN

Tjhe Wanchai bar was closed after all its staff were taken to a quarantine center following the outbreak

A quarantined employee of Dusk Till Dawn bar in Wanchai was one of 28 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Sunday, Apr. 5, raising the total tally for Hong Kong to 891. Of this number, 206 have been discharged after recovery.
The male staff was asymptomatic, but was tested while confined to a quarantine center where around 120 other people were taken, after a mass outbreak in the bar and three others where a Filipino band had played regularly.
Another male patient linked to the so-called bar cluster was also reported among the new cases.


However, as in the past two weeks, an overwhelming number of the new cases involved Hong Kong residents who had just returned from overseas. Of the 28 confirmed cases, 23 had traveled recently. Thirteen are students returning from their schools abroad.
On Saturday, Apr 4, another Filipina domestic helper was discharged from hospital after recovering from Covid-19, said a statement from the Consulate. She was the third to be discharged in two days.
On Apr 2, two other Filipinos were also reported as having been discharged, including Jinkee Alhambra, a domestic worker who bravely chronicled her battle with the disease on her Facebook page. Alhambra posted a picture of her leaving the hospital the day before.
Jinkee Alhambra happily proclaims victory over Covid-19 before leaving the hospital

Sixteen Filipinos are reportedly still being treated for the disease, while a total of seven have recovered, and been sent home.
The tally does not seem updated, however, as many of the Filipino musicians and staff involved in the bar cluster have not been included.


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On Friday, a 52-year-old Filipina quarantined at Chung King Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui tested positive, two days after returning from a vacation in Manila. Her case was also not reported to the Consulate.
Meanwhile, more than 120 people who work at Shek Kip Mei police station have been moved to a quarantine center after two police officers were found infected with the virus, the latest being a 46-year-old policeman who tested positive on Apr 4.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Health officials say everyone in the station was considered as a close contact of the two officers. Three of them reportedly showed symptoms so they were taken to a hospital for testing.
More tests are also being conducted on those who came near a 93-year-old male patient at Pok Oi Hospital who was found infected with Covid-19 after being discharged. It’s now believed he was infected by a confirmed patient who was placed in a bed about 1.8 meters away from the elderly man. 
The elderly patient is now in serious condition at Tuen Mun Hospital.

Migrant workers urged to observe social distancing, safeguard their rights

Posted on 05 April 2020 No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

Migrant leaders call on workers to heed social distancing rules amid a crowded footbridge

Filipino migrant leaders have urged fellow workers to stay healthy and support Hong Kong’s social distancing protocol, as they accused the government of singling them out as agents of the contagion.

The activists also reminded Filipino helpers who huddled in groups of four in the Chater Road subway on Sunday, Apr 5, to be aware of their labor rights amid the Labour Department’s appeal to them to spend their rest day in their employers’ homes.

Eman Villanueva, chairman of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, spoke briefly to the workers as Dolores Balladares of United Filipinos in Hong Kong led a group in handing out leaflets, surgical masks and sanitizers as protection from the virus.
The “Care for Domestic Workers” event was also carried out before noon at the Mong Kok Footbridge and at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, both favorite hangouts of mainly Indonesian maids on Sundays.

The outreach was a joint project of the Mission for Migrant Workers, Asian Migrants Coordinating Body and the office of Legislative Councilor Fernando Cheung.

Villanueva, an AMCB spokesman, warned the workers to beware of employers who use the stay-home call as a reason to let their helpers work on their rest day.
Mali po iyon, nilalabag ang ating karapatan na one rest day per week. Kapag kayo po ay (hindi binigyan) ng one rest day per week, ipaabot nyo sa aming kaalaman, puwede namin kayong tulungan,” Villanueva said.

“Iyan po ay criminal offense, violation po iyan ng Labour Ordinance. Hindi po iyan simpleng paglabag, ito ay criminal offense,” he emphasized.

He reminded the helpers that each time there was an outbreak, the host government turned its sights on OFWs, as if they brought the disease with them.

Villanueva says Filipino domestic workers are wrongly accused of bringing home the disease with them

“Pero sa totoo, sa record ng Hong Kong mismo, yung mga Pilipino ang nahawa ng mga employer. So, hindi tayo ang nagkakalat, tayo ang nakakakuha pero pinalalabas ng Hong Kong government na para bang tayo ang nagkakalat,” Villanueva said.

About 20 foreign domestic workers have tested positive for Covid-19 in Hong Kong, all of them Filipinos. All except four who were found infected after arriving from Manila, caught the virus in their employers’ homes.

Villanueva added that while there is discrimination, workers on their day off should abide by the rule of gathering in groups of no more than four so they don’t violate the law.

He lamented that the government remembered migrants when asking for sacrifices, such as staying at home on their rest days, but excluded them from benefits such as the $10,000 financial assistance given to residents.

Balladares, meanwhile, advised the workers to safeguard their health so that there would be no reason for locals to accuse them of being filthy and likely carriers of disease.

In an interview, Balladares and another migrant leader, Sheila Tebia of Gabriela Hong Kong, have said that they continue to receive reports of helpers being fired by their employers who accuse them of bringing the virus with them after taking their day off.

In one incident, Balladares said, a worker was dismissed by her local employer simply because she was seen taking various pills.

Tebia said there were workers who were told to wear plastic raincoats throughout their day off, supposedly to prevent them from catching the virus, then bringing it back home with them.

Villanueva said the employers are treating the workers wrongly because they send them out to the market during weekdays, but prevent them from going out on Sundays, as if they are more in danger of getting ill when with their friends.

Cheung did not arrive for the event either in Mongkok or in Central, but sent a staff member who brought the masks and sanitizers that were given away.
 
Indonesians Eni and Erwiana (middle two) were among the speakers

The Filcom leaders were joined by Johannie Tong from the Mission; Eni Lestari, chairperson of International Migrants Alliance; and former abuse victim Erwiana Sulistyaningsih who now volunteers at the Mission.

The three led the distribution of social distancing leaflets, masks and sanitizers in Mongkok. The two Indonesian activists later left for Causeway Bay to engage their compatriots on Victoria Park.

PCG staff to work from home on rotation, but services to remain ‘as is’

Posted on No comments
By Daisy CL Mandap


Before and after social distancing photos show the drop in the number of people lining up at the PCG's counters

Staff of the Philippine Consulate General will mostly work from home two days a week, and go to the office for the other three days, starting tomorrow, Apr 6,  amid a spike in new Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.

But Consul General Raly Tejada said services to the public will remain “as is,” and that all staff will still be reporting for work on Sundays, when most Filipino domestic workers pack the Consulate to transact business.

Congen Tejada said the move is being taken to protect both the Consulate staff and their clients as Hong Kong began restricting public gatherings to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease.
He said 80 or so staff of both the Consulate and its attached agencies, including the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, will work from home on a rotation basis.

Exempted are his five officers, from his deputy to the four consuls, who will still report to the office four times a week, and work from home for only one day. Congen says he himself will still be at the office for five days each week.

ConGen Tejada says he will still report to PCG  5x a week; his officers 4x a week

Explaining the new work arrangement, he said: “There will be two teams: Team A will be on duty Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Team B will work Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. So full force kami pag Sunday,” he said.

“Because of this arrangement, we can scale down non-essential work yet be able to serve the public with our full range of services.”


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He said the shortened workday of 10am to 3pm will remain in place, as a further measure to protect both PCG staff and their clients, as this allows everyone to avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours.

He added the Consulate’s emergency services will remain active at all times and can be accessed by calling their hotline: 9155 4023.

Many government offices have also been on work-from-home arrangements since late January, although frontline service staff, including those at the Labour and Immigration Departments, have been told to continue providing services.


Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.


But since a spike in cases was recorded in mid-March when residents began flooding back into the city from overseas, the Hong Kong government imposed more restrictions on public gatherings, such as requiring no more than four people to get together in public places and restaurants.

More recently, the government ordered more businesses that attract large crowds like bars and karaokes, to shut for 14 days.

Individuals who violate the new rules face a maximum fine of $25,000 and six weeks’ imprisonment, while businesses could be fined up to $50,000.

The new rules have resulted in most people staying indoors on weekends, including migrant workers who have skipped taking their only day off in the week amid repeated advice from both their employers and the authorities to stay put if they want to remain safe from the virus.

An adviser to the Hong Kong government today said further restrictions might be necessary, such as requiring restaurants to only sell food for takeaway, to halt the surge in new cases as more residents return from overseas.

Restaurants can take in only half their usual capacity, and keep tables at least 1.5 meters apart

Bernard Chan said other businesses that provide “non-essential services” could be shut down, but did not give examples.

However, the government has been under pressure in recent days to add beauty salons and massage parlours among the establishments that should be shut down temporarily.

Meanwhile, health expert Yuen Kwok-yung has warned of a possible third wave of infections from mainland visitors as China begins easing up its lockdown of key cities, while Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the public could expect the economy to remain bleak until the end of the year.

Another newly arrived Filipina among 43 new Covid-19 cases in HK

Posted on 03 April 2020 No comments
By The SUN

There are now 4 Filipinas who flew in from Manila who have tested positive for Covid-19 in HK

A 52-year-old Filipina who has just returned from a vacation in the Philippines is one of 43 people in Hong Kong confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus disease today, Apr 3, according to the Department of Health.

She has become the fourth Filipino to test positive after flying in from Manila on Apr 1.

Records from the Center for Health Protection show that the Filipina was asymptomatic but tested positive while under quarantine at Chung King Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Three other infected Filipinas came from different places, brought there by their employers; one from the United Kingdom, another from Turkey, and the most recent, from the United States.

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Also among the new cases are five linked to the bars in Central, Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui from where around 80 people have been infected so far.

The new cases brought the city’s total to 845. Of these, 626 remain in hospitals. Eight are in critical condition, and nine in serious condition.

Globally, the number of people infected with the virus has passed the million mark, with the death toll nearing 55,000.
Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said in today’s press briefing that the helper was one of 34 patients who had traveled to other countries recently.

Seven of the 20 locally acquired cases are tied to bars, bolstering a move by the authorities to close from 6pm tonight all establishments that serve alcoholic drinks as part of the government’s social distancing measures to contain the epidemic.

Chuang said five of the new cases are tied to previously named bars in a cluster involving bar staff and musicians, as well as patrons.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.


One of the patients visited All Night Long in Tsim Sha Tsui, while one other was a friend of a confirmed infected person who had been to Insomnia in Central. Two performers and a bar employee were also among Friday’s patients.  

Also part of the bar cluster are Dusk till Dawn and Centre Stage in Wanchai.


Insomnia in Lan Kwai Fong was where the first bar infection was detected 


However, two new patients both had travel history, and had visited a bar. The first visited Tazmania Ballroom in Lan Kwai Fong, and the other, La Cabane on Hollywood Road, both in Central.

Meanwhile, the move to close down bars has left many owners confused, saying the government was not clear on whether the targeted premises are those that exclusively or mainly sell or supply liquors for consumption.

They noted that due to a lack of clarity on how the social distancing law will be enforced, restaurants that also serve alcoholic drinks could be at risk of being shut.

Owners of businesses that violate the ban also face a maximum fine of $50,000 and six months in jail.

Gordon Lam Sui-wa, convenor of the Hong Kong Small and Middle Restaurant Federation, was reported by a local newspaper as saying that 1,100 bars would definitely close as selling alcohol was their business.

But those in uncertain situation are drinking venues also that also serve food and categorized as “bar and restaurants” on their liquor license, a grey area on which many of these businesses fall.

Asked about the issue at today’s press briefing, Dr Chui Tak-yi, undersecretary for Food and Health, said that the government ban covers bars and pubs because of their close setting and cramped configuration that do not engender social distancing.

Also covered by the ban are gatherings in premises or businesses that violate the law governing social distancing, Chui said.

He said activities in these establishments will be monitored in line with the government’s position to minimize social gatherings as a measure to contain the contagion.

But he said the government will only give out advice and warnings initially, because “ the public needs time to adjust.”

If the warnings are ignored, “then there will be enforcement,” he said.

Earlier this week, the government ordered the closure of karaoke lounges, mahjong parlours and clubhouses. That came after the first batch of public places that attract large crowds, including cinemas, gaming centers, saunas, fitness centres, party rooms and pool halls, were shut on Mar 28.

Meanwhile, the government has urged the public to avoid going to cemeteries tomorrow, Saturday, for the traditional sweeping of ancestors’ graves during the Ching Ming Festival.

“Doing so can lessen crowd conditions and reduce close contact, thereby reducing the risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus through social contact,” a government spokesman said

Members of the public should also abide by the group gathering regulation that limits groupings to four people, unless they live in the same household, and to keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from other groups.

Hong Kong’s strict laws on social gatherings come amid the coronavirus pandemic which has infected more than 1 million people worldwide, and claimed the lives of about 55,000 others. More than 200,000 have recovered.

In the new epicenter, the United States, the number of cases was nearing 250,000 with the death toll at 6,000. Italy was trailing the US with over 115,000 cases and about 14,000 deaths, while Spain is third, with more than 110,000 infections and 10,000 deaths.

In the Philippines, the tally as of today is 3,018 cases and 136 deaths.

Labour chief renews call for FDHs, employers to help contain spread of Covid-19

Posted on No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

FDHs still flock to WorldWide Plaza in Central on Sundays as they need to send money home

Hong Kong’s top labor official has again urged foreign domestic helpers and their employers to agree on rest day arrangements ahead of the statutory holiday tomorrow, Apr 4, because of the Ching Ming Festival, and most workers’ regular Sunday off.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong made his appeal via a video message late on Thursday night, as he called on helpers and employers to join hands in helping keep the epidemic in check.

Lam thanked FDHs fo their contributions to Hong Kong society and appealed to them to observe social distancing in the fight against Covid-19.
 “The government has prohibited group gatherings with more than four people in public places. Offenders are liable to prosecution,” Law said.

“We fully understand that most helpers would like to meet their friends during their rest days. However, we are now at a critical juncture in our fight against Covid-19, and it is essential that all of us practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the disease,” the secretary said.

His warning came four days after the government forbid the gathering in public of more than four people, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The ban carries with it a maximum penalty of $25,000 fine and imprisonment of up to six months, although those who want to settle the charge outright can opt to pay a fixed penalty of $2,000.
 
Many Filipino helpers stayed away from Central on the first day the ban on public gathering took effect

Law also appealed to employers to understand the current special circumstances and discuss the rest day arrangements with their helpers by encouraging them to stay home for rest, or to take their rest day on weekdays instead of at the weekend.

“Employers are also reminded that it is against the law to refuse to grant a rest day or compel your helpers to work on a rest day without consent,” he added.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.


A wide range of publicity efforts have been undertaken by the government to drive home its message of keeping FDHs at home even on their rest day.

These include enlisting the help of consulates-general in convincing the workers to remain at home as much as possible, and putting up posters and distributing leaflets in major FDH languages with the same message.

In a separate advisory, the Consulate reiterated its stay-at-home appeal, saying that since Mar 27, three more Filipinos have been infected with the virus, raising the community’s total tally to 19.

“We appeal to the Filipino community in Hong Kong to stay at home whenever possible. Avoid crowded places when going out and follow recent regulation on social distancing that bans the gathering of more than 4 people in public places,” the PCG said in a post on its Facebook page.

At the same time, employers were urged to respect the rest day of employees who choose to stay at home.

The Labour Department has published some frequently asked questions and answers on rest day arrangements and relevant employment matters on its dedicated FDH portal (www.fdh.labour.gov.hk), for employers’ reference.

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