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DH tests negative for Covid-19 after being locked out by panicked employers

22 March 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Marilou waiting for her test results at North Lantau Hospital

A Filipina who returned from a shortened vacation to Manila on Friday has tested negative for Covid-19 today, Mar. 22, at the North Lantau Hospital, a day after being locked out of her employers’ home for having a sore throat.
Marilou L., a single mother of two, said her employers had accused her of lying to airport staff on arrival because she did not tell them about her sore throat.
But she insists she developed the sore throat only the night before, when she was already at her employers’ house in Olympic, West Kowloon.

She said it must have been caused by the abrupt change in the weather. It was hot in Manila when she left, and cold in Hong Kong on her arrival.
Early yesterday, Mar. 21, after spending the night in her employer’s home for the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine, Marilou involuntarily cleared her throat and coughed a little while at work.
Alarmed, her employer asked her if she was alright, and Marilou admitted to having a sore throat.

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Marilou said her employer immediately gave her flu medicine and told her to wear a face mask. But later , both her employers reportedly told her to leave, despite her being on mandatory home quarantine.
She immediately sought help through a private message, and a post in the Facebook page of the Domestic Workers Corner.
About 15 minutes later, she said her male employer was taking her to a hospital. But the Kwong Wah hospital in Yaumatei reportedly turned her away, and the employer left her outside the building.

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When reached by phone, Marilou was distraught and asked to be rescued because she said she could no longer bear the nagging of her furious employers.
The SUN relayed her appeal to Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao of the Overseas Workers Welfare Office, who lost no time contacting Marilou and her employers. The Centre for Health Protection was then alerted about her case, in line with the protocol for Covid-19.
Tamayao managed to convince the employers to take Marilou back to their home in line with quarantine rules 
Tamayao said she told Marilou to calm down because she would get proper medical attention in the hospital. She also counseled the worker about employers’ fears about the infection risk.
The employers, on the other hand, were reminded about their responsibility as the helper was already under quarantine at their home, and it would be against the rules to move her to another address.
Tamayao also told the employers it was the press that alerted OWWA about the case.

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Her tack seemed to work as the employers calmed down and took Marilou back to Olympic to wait for the ambulance there. At first, the male employer had thought of taking her to a hotel, but turned back when the ambulance came.
The ambulance took Marilou to North Lantau Hospital in Tung Chung around 1pm Saturday, along with her personal belongings. She was tested there for the novel coronavirus disease, or Covid-19, and at about 2am today, Sunday, was told that the result was negative.
The doctor reportedly said her itchy and sore throat could be due to allergy because of the shift from hot to cold weather.

Because she was not infected, she will have to continue her quarantine at the hotel chosen by her employer. Under Labour Department regulations, the employers will have to pay for her accommodation and food for the remaining period of the quarantine.

Obviously realizing this, her male employer gave Marilou $5,000 for her hotel stay and bought cup noodles and other food items for her.

Marilou, whose contract is expiring on May 23, had already agreed to renew with the employers before she was allowed to go on vacation in the Philippines.
But the recent lockdown of the entire island of Luzon, along with Metro Manila, made her decide to cut short her planned one-month vacation to just four days.
Marilou arrived with this group on the second day of HK's mandatory quarantine for all arriving passengers
While waiting for her test results, Marilou said she received a message from her female employer telling her she was very upset because she did not tell the airport health officers about her throat.
The employer said she did not want the helper to be quarantined at their home because of the potential risk to her son, who is 4 years old.
When Marilou asked the female employer if she can continue to work for her if she is found negative of Covid-19, the employer said: “Even negative this time, that is no use. Many people only confirm positive after the tests.”

Marilou said she will stay in the hotel until Apr 5 and is unsure if her employers will take her back into their home.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has recorded 44 new coronavirus cases, including a 20-month-old baby. The total tally now stands at 317.

Of the new cases, 29 involved travelers arriving from Europe, Canada and the United States. Four were students returning from their studies in Britain.

The spike in cases, the second highest daily tally, came after Chief Executive Carrie Lam look further steps to contain the pandemic, including postponing university entrance exams by a month, and ordering civil servants to resume working from home.
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