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Social distancing rules set aside amid rain

03 August 2020

By The SUN

Today's heavy rain forced many Filipino helpers to seek refuge under a footbridge on Chater Road

Today was like any other Sunday in Central, when Filipino domestic workers found themselves seated close to each other despite the new, more stringent rule that allows only a maximum of two people to gather together in public.

But it was not due to any attempt to flout the law. The rain, and the lack of a place for them to spend their only rest day in the week outside of their employers’ homes, made the helpers squat shoulder-to-shoulder underneath bridges and flyovers that shielded them from the elements.
But most, if not all of the helpers wore face masks, even the now ubiquitous face shields, in compliance with another new regulation that mandates the wearing of masks in all public places, indoor and outdoor. Rain, or no rain.

No one could be seen sharing meals – this time, not because of the fear of incurring penalties for violating a law, but as anybody who has been listening closely to advice from Hong Kong health experts knows, this is one of the fastest ways to spread the virus.
Now, if only their employers who keep inviting families and friends over to their houses would bear this in mind, said the helpers, there would be less risk of them getting infected, and in turn, passing on the disease to more people.
WorldWide Plaza drew fewer people than usual on a Sunday, but was still crowded
This was uppermost in the minds of the many who shrugged off today’s intermittent rain so they could have a brief respite from the drudgery of working six days a week, now made even more difficult by their employers working mostly from home.
With a ban on dine-ins in all restaurants after 6pm, many domestic workers are also complaining of having to serve meals non-stop to extended family members, and wait until late into the night so they could clean up after the guests had left.

So, even at the risk of catching the dreaded virus, or being slapped with a fixed penalty of $2,000 for violating social distancing rules, the helpers choose to go out.
But that’s only if their employers are reasonable or law-abiding enough to let them take a day off. The complaint often heard nowadays is that domestic helpers are no longer being allowed to take a rest day, with their employers using the spread of the virus as a convenient excuse.

Never mind if the domestic helper is made to go out for errands on all other days, or the employer wantonly disregards the safety of everyone in the household by inviting friends and family over to eat, and be merry.

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