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Deployment of OFWs to HK halted as new travel restrictions take effect Saturday

25 July 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Agencies says employers are turned off by the high cost of the swab test and quarantine for the OFWs 


Most, if not all, overseas Filipino workers bound for Hong Kong will not be flying out soon as highly restrictive pre-boarding requirements are due to take effect starting tomorrow, Jul 25.

At least one employment agency group in Hong Kong says it will not deploy any domestic worker from the Philippines for at least a week starting from tomorrow, in response to the new travel restrictions.

“That’s why we are expecting nearly zero deployment starting from midnight tonight, for at least a week, up to two weeks,” said Thomas Chan, head of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies.

Pindutin para sa detalye!

The biggest problem appears to be the 72-hour validity of the Covid-19 swab test which everyone traveling from the Philippines must test negative to, before being allowed to board a flight bound for Hong Kong.

Enquiries made by several people, including the agency group, showed that only two hospitals in Metro Manila could guarantee a result in under 72 hours, but the cost is prohibitive.

Chan said: “According to my partner, an inquiry with the listed medical institutions (38) in Manila, only two replied they can release the report within 72 hours: Makati Medical Center and Chinese General Hospital, but the charge is expensive. 16,000 pesos for General Hospital.”
Separate inquiries made by two would-be travelers yielded a price of Php12,000 for Chinese General for a test with 12-hour result. The cheaper one could be released only after 3-5 days.

Makati Medical, which some people who wanted to get out of quarantine in Manila fast had used, cost only Php9,000 previously, but it seems to be charging more now because of the increase in demand.

And even with the hefty price tag, another traveler reported that the earliest available testing date given by the hospital is July 31.
 
Swab test results that meet HK's time bar cost upwards of Php12k per person
The high cost of testing appears to have turned off many Hong Kong employers, who must also pay for the cost of the 14-day quarantine required of all newly arrived FDHs from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Pindutin para sa detalye

“Some employers are calling us either to postpone the deployment or cancel the (work) visa of those in the Philippines, and hire those already in Hong Kong instead,” said Chan,  

By so doing, the employers get to save the cost of the swab test and hotel quarantine for the new helper, and on top of this, are assured that the replacement worker can start immediately after their work visa is released.

Since the coronavirus outbreak started to worsen in February, the Hong Kong Immigration Department has relaxed its visa rules for FDHs.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

Those who finish their two-year contracts are allowed to extend their visas, instead of taking a home leave within a year. Those who are terminated are even allowed to process a new contract here, and move to their new employer after their new visa is issued.

Chan said their counterpart agencies in the Philippines are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“They have (decided) to cancel flights and wait for any new amendment to the guidelines from the Hong Kong government.”
 
Chan (right) with another HKUEA officer at a press conference earlier
The HKUEA had previously asked the Hong Kong government to extend the cut-off time for the swab test result to seven days, which they say is in line with the rules set by neighboring Guangdong for incoming travelers.

Chan said he had personally spoken with Dr Sophia Chan, secretary for food and health, and she assured him that their request had been forwarded to medical experts. He will be updated on Monday if Hong Kong decides to amend the restriction.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

Under the law on cross-border regulation for the prevention of disease which was gazetted on Jul 15, all travelers arriving from seven countries: the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and South Africa, must present a negative test result prior to boarding planes bound for Hong Kong.

The original test result must be presented, along with a certificate showing the laboratory that conducted the test was authorized by the country of origin.

The traveler must also show proof of a confirmed reservation in a Hong Kong hotel for at least 14 days for their mandatory quarantine.

The rules are to take effect on Jul 25, one week after they were announced.

Two other countries, the United States and Kazakstan were added to the list recently, with the same rules to apply to their outbound travelers, but with the start date set on Jul 29.


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