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FDWs among those thrown off-guard by new, extended quarantine

25 December 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

The mandatory 21-day hotel quarantine took effect today

Foreign domestic workers who arrived in Hong Kong today, Dec 25, were among those who ran into trouble after the government suddenly ordered the mandatory hotel quarantine for new arrivals extended by a week, to make a total of 21 days.

At the daily press update on the Covid-19 situation, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection acknowledged that FDWs were among those who got held up at the airport because of the new regulation which took effect just two hours after it was published in the official gazette.

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“I heard this morning that some foreign domestic helpers had run into some difficulties. The airport staff offered help with securing hotels,” said Chuang. “Sometimes the FDHs have to rely on assistance by employers or employment agencies, but I think most of them have their problems sorted out by now.”

According to some would-be travelers who posted in a quarantine support group on Facebook, their 14-day hotel bookings had been canceled after they requested for a week-long extension, in compliance with the new government regulation.

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Among those mentioned were Best Western Hotel Plus, and Dorsett Hotel in Tsuen Wan, where many FDWs coming to Hong Kong are booked by their employers.  It is unclear whether the extended hotel quarantine has discouraged employers from getting their FDWs into Hong Kong, as they are, by law, obliged to pay for the costs of the accommodation and food during quarantine.

Hotel note canceling a booking after the 21-day rule took effect

Chuang said 57 Covid-19 cases were recorded for the past 24 hours, all but two of them locally acquired. Of the 55 local cases, 25 had no known source.

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CHP records show that the two imported cases were both FDWs who were asymptomatic but tested positive at the airport yesterday. Both are 26 years old, but one came from Manila, and the other, from Jakarta.

One death was recorded, that of a 95-year-old man with underlying illnesses who passed on at 1:15am today at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He was rushed there from Buddhist Hospital after his blood oxygen level was found to have significantly gone down.

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While admitting that the number of cases has gone down, Chuang warned that “drop is not rapid, and we still have a high ratio of untraceable cases.”

She added that if there were many cases with unknown source, many more infections will surface, so people need to wait awhile to see if the situation has really eased.

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“If family members will continue to gather and have meals together, the figure may go up again,” she warned.

With the latest daily tally, Hong Kong’s total confirmed cases has gone up to 8,245. Of this, 940 remained confined in 24 public hospitals and the treatment facility at AsiaWorld-Expo. Among them, 54 are critically ill, 70 are serious, and 816 are in stable condition.

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The government’s decision to prolong the mandatory quarantine was in response to reports that a more infectious coronavirus strain had spread in Britain and South Africa. All flights coming from Britain have been halted, while travelers who had stayed for at least two hours in South Africa 21 days before their scheduled flight to Hong Kong will also not be allowed to come in.

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The decision was widely met with dismay by residents booked for flights to Hong Kong, who called it irrational and unjust, saying no other place in the world has imposed a 21-day quarantine. Some had started an online petition calling on the government to rescind both the extended quarantine and the ban on returning residents.

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