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Newly arrived Filipina DH deported after recovering from Covid-19

21 September 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The deported Filipina says she had a negative test result before departing Manila (file) 

Has there been a policy shift in the way Hong Kong Immigration is treating newly arrived foreign domestic helpers who test positive at the airport?

This is the question being asked by many in the community after a Filipina domestic worker who was sent to hospital after being found positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Hong Kong on Sept 12 was deported exactly a week later.

It is the first reported case of an infected Filipino worker being deported immediately back to Manila after hospital treatment.

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Asked if he knew about the case, Consul General Raly Tejada said the Consulate was not informed.

Contacted yesterday, Sept 20, in Manila, Ermelyn Deño, 31, said she was still perplexed and feeling down after her ordeal.

She said she was in a hotel room in Ortigas, where she will be under quarantine until she is picked up by a government vehicle and taken to a connecting ride to her hometown in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

 

Noong (Sept) 12 po ako pumunta diyan, sir, tapos kahapon na-discharge ako sa hospital, pinaderetso na ako dito,” said Deño, married and a mother of three young children.

(I went there on Sept. 12, then yesterday I was discharged from hospital, and I was immediately told to go home straight).

She said she arrived at 10am that day in Hong Kong via Philippine Airlines flight PR300 for what would have been her first job abroad.


She said she did not know why Hong Kong Immigration kept her passport and luggage  while she was taken to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan in an ambulance after her swab test at the airport.

Upon her arrival, she had a dry throat and sporadic coughing, she said, but did not know where she could have gotten the coronavirus.

But she was confident when she left Manila because her certificate from the Lung Center of the Philippines stated she was swab-tested on Sept 10 and confirmed negative a day after.

Deno says she was tested at the Lung Center in Quezon City

At Hong Kong aiport, Deño said a female immigration officer interviewed her but she could barely understand what she was asked.

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Tinanong po non sa akin kung saan ako galing at saan ako nakatira dito, tapos kung may nakasalamuha akong may ubo, sipon, nilalagnat, mga sintomas ng Covid,” she said, adding she was also asked if she had travel companions.

(I was asked then where I had come from, where I live in the Philippines, and if I had mingled with people who had cough, runny nose, fever, all symptoms of Covid)

Afterwards, the officer gave her a recognizance form to sign. The document is an undertaking by a person suspected of having committed a violation, promising to submit himself/herself to authorities at a specified time and place.

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The Filipina said she did not know what it was for but took her copy of the document and showed it to her contact person at Sunlight Employment, her Hong Kong agency. She said the agency staff did not know what it meant, either. 

A copy she scanned for The SUN showed she was being instructed on Sept 12 to report to the duty officer at the airport immediately after her discharge.

During her hospital confinement, she said she was able to chat with her would-be employer, then got no more reply to her last message. It was only with the agency that the employer communicated, she said.

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Deño said she was surprised when at past 5pm on Sept 18, the agency representative contacted her and told her she was flying back to Manila the next day.

No'ng tinanong ko po si agent tungkol sa amo ko, sabi wala pa naman daw sinabi si amo na back out na. Kaya nabigla ako nang tumawag sila, back-out na ko at pinapauwi na ako ng Immigration. May ticket na kaagad ako,” she said.

(When I initially talked to my agent, I was told my employer had not said anything about backing out of our contract. So I was surprised when I got a call saying my employer had backed out and Immigration wanted me to go home. I was immediately given an air ticket).

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She said she was assured by the agency that she would be given financial aid.

Deno said the ordeal was a big blow as she had to give up her nine-year-old job as hotel housekeeping staff in Puerto Princesa to come to Hong Kong. She said she had to borrow money to pay Php36,000 to Ascend International Services, the agency in Manila, for various fees.

She said she won’t have a job to return to because Palawan’s tourism industry has been knocked down by Covid-19. Luckily, she said her husband, a hotel security guard, still has a job so the family has money for daily expenses.

But she worries about the effects on her three children and her youngest sibling whom she is sending to school.

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