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Covid jabs, tests to be required of all FDHs

30 April 2021

By Daisy C L Mandap 

Law says vaccination is a 'reasonable' requirement for FDHs

Foreign domestic helpers applying for employment visas in Hong Kong, whether for renewal of their work contracts with the same employer, or because they are moving to a new employer, will be required to show proof of vaccination.

This was announced by Labour Secretary Law Chi-kwong during a press briefing earlier today, Apr 30, held after a 39-year-old FDH from the Philippines was found to carry the coronavirus variant whose source is unknown.


Law did not say when the new requirement will take effect, but for a start, he said all FDHs will be required to undergo a Covid-19 test between tomorrow and until May 9.

The only ones who will be exempted from this requirement are those who have received two doses of a vaccine at least 14 days previously, and those who got tested today.

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The labour chief said FDHs are “high risk” because they are hired to look after their employer’s family members, but during their days-off, many gather with fellow helpers during which they eat together and socialize with each other, heightening the risk of infection.

"So from the point of view of prevention, foreign domestic helpers are considered high risk," he said.

As for FDHs who have yet to take up their employment in Hong Kong, Law said there are demands, particularly from employment agencies, for the vaccines to be made available to incoming workers at their home countries, but said complying with this would be difficult.


But he said the government is now looking at how pre-vaccination could be done for FDHs who are about to enter Hong Kong, and will announce details once the problem could be sorted out.

Lam, together with Health Secretary Dr Sophia Chan, deflected criticism that FDHs are being singled out for compulsory testing and vaccination.

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Lam said that compulsory testing for those working in care homes has been enforced for some time, and making FDHs comply with the same requirement should not be unfair, given that many of them also look after the elderly and the disabled in their employer’s homes.

Chan said that in addition, this is the second time that a FDH has been found to have acquired the mutated virus in the community, and contact tracing showed both had mingled with a lot of people during the incubation period.

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“This mingling is a high risk activity, so for prudence sake, we are doing the testing on all foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong,” she said.

All FDHs will now have to get themselves tested starting tomorrow

As to why employers are not being made subject to the same compulsory testing, Law said “we are looking at a million people, and their risk is relatively low, so it’s a matter of priority.”

He added it will not be practical to require testing for a million people, compared with just about 370,000 FDHs.

Law said the compulsory testing of FDHs starting tomorrow is just the initial phase. “In the future they will have to be tested on a regular basis,” Law said.

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He said that from tomorrow, the Labour Department will work with other government agencies in conducting information campaign in some of the favorite haunts of FDHs. The workers will reminded about the social distancing restrictions, and if warranted, enforcement action will be taken.

As part of the enforcement action, FDHs could be asked to show proof on their mobile phones that they had complied with the testing requirement.

As for requiring all FDHs applying for work visas to get the Covid vaccine first, the labor secretary said this was “not an unreasonable requirement”, suggesting the workers have the option of not complying, though at the risk of losing their jobs.

“Of course they have a choice (of not getting vaccinated), but they are in a different situation vis-à-vis local residents,” he said.

Dr Ronald Lam, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, disclosed that the helper’s 10-month-old female ward also tested positive for the dreaded variant, indicating she had been infected by the caregiver.

Both parents of the baby girl tested negative for the coronavirus.

Lam also said epidemiological studies showed no link between the helper and three previous cases of mutant infection within the community.

All 950 residents of Caribbean Coast told to get tested were all free of the virus-

The first, an Indian man who had flown in from Dubai and was found to carry the virus 10 days after ending his 21-day quarantine, appeared to have been infected in his Tsim Sha Tsui hotel.

The second is the man’s girlfriend with whom he lived in a flat in Jordan for a few days after leaving his hotel quarantine. Genome sequencing, plus the low antibodies found in the woman, reportedly indicated she acquired the infection from the first case.

The third, a 38-year-old Filipina DH, is also believed to have been infected with the variant while under quarantine at a hotel in Sai Ying Pun. She was found to have the mutated virus five days after leaving the hotel and moving into her employer’s flat in Mid-Levels.

Lam advised the public to get tested immediately once they develop symptoms, after pointing out that the last variant carrier to be discovered went to consult a doctor only three days after developing a cough.

The helper’s infection caused health authorities to order about 600 other residents of Tower 11 of Caribbean Coast in Tung Chung to be sent to quarantine, including her employers.

Also sent to quarantine centers were 89 people she had spent time with in a church in Tsing Yi, and three who went with her to a park in Tung Chung.

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