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Employment agencies ask HK gov’t to set up quarantine site for FDHs

14 June 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

HKUEA officers call on govt to provide quarantine facility for arriving FDHs
Hong Kong employment agencies are urging the government to set up a centralized quarantine center for all foreign domestic helpers who arrive in the city from Asian countries that remain badly stricken by the coronavirus.

The call was made today, June 14, by officers of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies in a press conference in Causeway Bay. They said the government must act now to prepare for the influx of thousands of helpers in the coming months.

Thomas Chan, HKUEA chairman and general manager of Bright International Services, said the press conference was the launch of a series of activities the union would be making to urge the government to provide such centralized quarantine facilities for FDHs.
He said Hong Kong families are not comfortable letting their newly arrived domestic helpers, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, to spend the mandatory 14-day quarantine in their   homes.

Gilbert Ho, HKUEA committee member and owner of The Helper Employment Agency Ltd,  said an overwhelming majority of the employers is reluctant to welcome the new arrivals in  their homes due to the risk of getting infected if a worker carries the coronavirus.

“Ninety-five percent of the Hong Kong employers are worried about sharing a room 30 to 35 square feet with (newly arrived) domestic workers. And over 50,000 employers are hiring workers because of the elderly and children they have to look after,” Ho said.
At present, newly arrived workers either go into quarantine in their employers’ homes or in hotels that charge rates of $3,000 to $5,000 for a 14-day stay. The employers willingly bear the costs of the hotel quarantine of their workers, Ho said.

He said some hotels provide meals but others don’t. In the latter case, the employers are required to provide food for the quarantined worker, Ho said.
Ho (left) and Chan say HK families are reluctant to take in FDHs during the quarantine period
Speaking to The SUN after the media briefing, Chan the union has not yet set a meeting with the Labour Department to submit their proposal. He said the press conference was held mainly to get the plan publicized. 
Aside from the press conference, the union is holding meetings with members of Legislative Council committees to get legislative support for their proposal, he said. Meetings with employers are also scheduled, he said.

He said the HKUEA’s main purpose is not how to deal with the domestic helpers’ arrival problem but the bigger problem that it perceives would arise from the current quarantine arrangement.  

Chan said the proposed centralized quarantine center should be located far from populous areas of the city to avoid the risk of a contagion in the locality in case anyone among the new arrivals has the virus.
Agencies say ideally, quarantine centers for FDHs should be like the Lady Maclehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung 

He said the union still has no particular location in mind for the centralized quarantine center, but is looking at something like the government holiday lodges, two of which have already been used for this purpose. 

However, his fear does not seem well-founded because many quarantined new arrivals, whether FDHs or returning residents, have been housed in hotels or hostels all over the city with no apparent problem.

Also, everyone arriving in Hong Kong is now tested right at the airport, and all those found infected are immediately taken to hospitals for isolation and treatment. Thus, the risk of community contamination has been reduced significantly.
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