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2 new imported infections in HK today, as police relaxes distancing enforcement

01 May 2020

By The SUN

No signs of social distancing on Chater Road today despite 2 new infections being reported

Two new Covid-19 cases were reported in Hong Kong today, May 1, both brought in by residents newly evacuated from Pakistan.

The two confirmed cases ended five straight days of no new infections being detected in the city, and prompted a warning from health officials that more imported cases could be expected, and that local transmission remains a possibility.

Both patients were taken to hospital from a quarantine centre where all the 319 Hong Kong residents previously stranded in Pakistan had been taken on their arrival yesterday.
One is a 34-year-old man living in Pakistan with his parents, while the other is a 16-year-old Hong Kong student who traveled to the South Asian country on Mar 3.

Officials say 5,000 more residents stranded in Pakistan and India are asking for help so they can return home.

In today’s press briefing, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said: “It is expected that there will be more imported cases in Hong Kong, and we hope the virus will not be transmitted to the community.”
She said it is too early to say that the contagion is under control because the incubation period can be as long as 14 days, and in some cases, even longer. Thus, it is safer to wait for 28 more days, or until May 20, before declaring that the local outbreak has been contained.

“The last local case was sent to hospital on Apr 22, so if there are no new cases in two incubation cycles (28 days) we can say the local outbreak is under control,” Chuang said.

Despite her word of caution, law enforcement was noticeably lax today, even if it was a statutory holiday, meaning foreign domestic workers were also taking a day off.
 
Filipino community leaders show their displeasure at the Phl government in a street protest to mark May Day

On busy Chater Road in Central, for example, many migrant workers took advantage of the sunny weather to hang out together in large numbers, with no police officer telling them to break up into groups of four, as what the social distancing rules require.

As many as 10 in a group could be seen on sidewalks playing card games, eating or just catching up after several weeks of staying away from their usual haunts.

A large crowd also gathered around a makeshift stage where Filipino community leaders marked Labor Day with a protest against the Philippine government’s failure to extend help to its overseas workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the social amelioration program of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, all overseas Filipino workers and their families are not entitled to receive the financial assistance of between Php5k-Php8k given to each household.

A separate program under the Department of Labor and Employment only provides the USD200 cash assistance to OFWs who lose their jobs because of the pandemic, or are infected with Covid-19, leaving millions others without any help.
 

The leaders from United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante HK) and Rise Against Government Exactions (Rage) also hit out at the five-fold increase in premium payments that OFWs are being made to pay PhilHealth, or the national health insurance system.

From a yearly payment of Php2,400, all migrant workers will now be charged 3% of their monthly salary, or a minimum of Php10,800 each annually.
 
Pro-government supporters heckled as Villanueva spoke 
At the other end of the road, a bigger crowd gathered as Eman Villanueva of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, lambasted Duterte’s government not only for withholding aid from OFWs, but also for allegedly using the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on dissent.

A small group of pro-government OFWs stood nearby and tried to drown out Villanueva’s voice, to no avail. Police were on standby but did not interfere.



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