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Musicians on relief drive get caught in compulsory testing

14 February 2021

 By Daisy CL Mandap 

Volunteer musicians help pack and distribute relief goods sourced by MJM 

A group of Filipino musicians packing and distributing relief goods for colleagues hard-hit by the pandemic got caught in a mandatory testing order for residents and guests of Mirador Mansion in Tsim Sha Tsui, issued on Saturday, Feb 12.

This was after a 42-year-old woman on recognizance residing in the building, where a unit owned by the Hong Kong Musicians Union is located, was confirmed to have Covid-19 that same day.

In line with the government’s stepped-up infection control measures, that single case automatically made everyone who had stayed for at least two hours in Mirador Mansion two weeks prior, or from Jan 30 to Feb 12, fall under the compulsory testing order.

Among those covered by the order were several musician-volunteers who distributed relief packs that same day to colleagues who had been left mostly jobless by the recurring ban on live music in Hong Kong. Days earlier they were also at the HKMU office in the building, packing the food aid.

The donated food items were coursed through MJM, which stands for Maricel Bedana, Jennifer Palor-Fernandes and Marlyn Ayson-Hazelton, who formed a community of volunteers conducting food drive and raising funds for their fellow musicians in need.

Palor-Fernandes said the food distribution was the fourth to be carried out by MJM and fellow volunteers, who have so far extended help to around 300 mostly Filipino musicians. 

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The donation drive which started on Jan 25, was initially aimed at helping a group of young band members living in Wanchai, many of whom were stricken down by the coronavirus between March and April last year.

The band members have been mostly without work since. Although they are still allowed to live in the company-leased flat, they are provided with only a meal each day.

Dynamic trio of Bedana, Fernandez and Hazelton is behind the relief effort

After MJM started a food drive for them, many more donors have reportedly stepped forward to help, so other out-of-job musicians, including those with permanency residency, have been given help.

Palor-Fernandes said everyone who had been to Mirador for their relief effort has either undergone testing, or will do so in the next few days. All those covered by the testing order have until Tuesday, Feb 16, to comply. 

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Among those who went for a test was HKMU chairperson Manuela Lo, who had been in and out of Mirador during the indicated period, doing work for the Union and overseeing rehearsals for a fund-raising project for musicians sidelined by the pandemic restrictions.

“I’ve already informed everyone to take the test, I just did mine this morning…waiting for the result,” said Lo on Saturday, Feb 13.

She added no one lives in the HKMU unit in the building. 

Lo (center) with POLO officers led by Labour Attache Mel Dizon (left)

Earlier, HKMU conducted a separate relief effort for non-resident musicians with help from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

The band members living in Wanchai were also among the beneficiaries. Lo said the musicians who came here as contract workers, have largely been on a “no work, no pay” situation since Covid-19 swept across bars in Hong Kong and Kowloon early last year.

Pindutin para sa detalye

After the Lunar New Year holidays, the government is expected to reopen venues that had been shut since mid-December, after the number of coronavirus cases in the city shot up to record numbers.

But that gives little comfort to Lo and her fellow musicians, as bars, which are always the first to be shut, are again the last to be reopened when the restrictions are eased.

Since the restaurant dine-in house will only be extended up to 10pm from the current 6pm, bars and other venues where musicians are part of the staple fare, could remain grounded. And even if the bars are reopened, the question of when live music would be brought back is another matter. 

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

The fund-raising campaign, which kicks off at the end of the month, is meant to continue extending help to jobless musicians.

“This February 27 and 28 we are organizing an online fundraiser for musicians in need and they will be aired through the HKMU Facebook page, YouTube Channel, and supporting media outlets. The event will run for at least six months, in a series of episode, until our musicians, artists and entertainers can work again,” said Lo in a solicitation letter.

The government has issued the following advisory for those who are subject to compulsory Covid-19 tests:

The Government will set up mobile specimen collection stations at Shek Ku Lung Road Playground in Wong Tai Sin and Kwong Fuk Estate in Tai Po on Feb 13. The service period of the mobile specimen collection stations at Kwun Chung Sports Centre in Jordan and MacPherson Playground in Mong Kok will be extended to Feb 16 (Tuesday).

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Apart from mobile specimen collection stations, persons subject to compulsory testing can also choose to attend any of the community testing centres in all districts to receive testing free of charge.
Persons subject to compulsory testing may choose to undergo testing via the following routes:
1. To visit any of the mobile specimen collection stations (see the list and target groups (if applicable) at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html) for testing;
2. To attend any of the community testing centres (see the list at www.communitytest.gov.hk/en/);
3. To obtain a deep throat saliva specimen collection pack from any of the 121 post offices, vending machines set up at 20 MTR stations or 47 designated general outpatient clinics (GOPCs) of the Hospital Authority and return the specimen to one of the designated specimen collection points (see the distribution points and times, and the specimen collection points and times, at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html);
4. To undergo testing at any of the GOPCs of the Hospital Authority as instructed by a medical professional of the Hospital Authority;
5. To self-arrange testing provided by private laboratories which are recognised by the Department of Health (DH) and can issue SMS notifications in respect of test results (see the list at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/List_of_recognised_laboratories_RTPCR.pdf);or
6. To use a specimen bottle distributed to the relevant specified premises by the Centre for Health Protection (if applicable), and return the specimen bottle with the sample collected as per relevant guidelines. 

A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau cautioned that testing received at accident and emergency departments of the Hospital Authority or during hospital stays, or testing provided by private laboratories which cannot issue SMS notifications in respect of test results, does not comply with the requirements of the aforementioned compulsory testing notice.
     "If persons subject to compulsory testing have symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately and undergo testing as instructed by a medical professional. They should not attend the mobile specimen collection stations or the community testing centres."
Persons subject to compulsory testing must keep the SMS notification containing result of the test for checking by a law enforcement officer when the officer requires the persons to provide information about their undergoing the specified test.
Furthermore, persons subject to testing under the compulsory testing notices should, as far as reasonably practicable, take appropriate personal disease prevention measures including wearing a mask and maintaining hand hygiene, and, unless for the purpose of undergoing the specified test, stay at their place of residence and avoid going out until the test result is ascertained as far as possible.
Any enquiries on compulsory testing arrangements may be addressed to the hotline at 6275 6901, which operates daily from 9am to 6pm. If persons subject to compulsory testing plan to conduct testing at any of the community testing centres, they can check the centre's appointment status in advance. The hotlines of the community testing centres are available at www.communitytest.gov.hk/en/info/.
The Government will continue to trace possibly infected persons who had been to the relevant premises, and seriously verify whether they had complied with the testing notices. Any person who fails to comply with the testing notices commits an offence and may be fined a fixed penalty of $5,000. The person would also be issued with a compulsory testing order requiring him or her to undergo testing within a specified time frame. Failure to comply with the order is an offence and the offender would be liable to a fine at level 4 ($25,000) and imprisonment for six months.   

Relevant officers of different government departments are empowered to perform certain functions under the relevant Regulations under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap. 599), including requesting individuals to provide information and assistance when necessary. Any person who fails to comply with the relevant request commits an offence and would be liable to a fine at level 3 ($10,000). Collection and use of any personal data for conducting COVID-19 tests must meet the requirements under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486). Government departments or testing service providers which handle the relevant information may provide the data to DH or other relevant departments for anti-epidemic purpose as necessary. The workflow does not involve the provision of any personal data to organisations or persons outside Hong Kong.
The spokesman said, "The Government urges all individuals who are in doubt about their own health conditions, or individuals with infection risks (such as individuals who visited places with epidemic outbreaks or contacted confirmed cases), to undergo testing promptly for early identification of infected persons."

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