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Mandatory tests on 340k FDWs show no silent spread, high takeup for vaccines

10 May 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

A record 52,000 FDWs were tested on May 2, the second day of compulsory testing

It appears foreign domestic workers have fully complied with the Hong Kong government’s order for them to get tested, judging from the data released late on Sunday, the last day for complying with mandatory testing.

According to a government statement, nearly 340,000 FDWs had taken the test while around 40,000 others had received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine 14 days before the deadline, and were thus exempt.


The total figure far exceeds the government’s initial estimate that 370,000 helpers were due to take the required test between May 1 and 9, as directed by health officials.

It also shows the FDW population having a higher take-up for the vaccine (at 10.5%) than the local population.

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According to the latest figures from the government, only about 500,000 of the 6.55 million eligible residents have taken the two jabs, or just 7.6% overall.

In the statement, Hong Kong officials thanked FDWs and their employers for complying with the order issued on Apr 30, amid unfounded fears that a silent transmission of the dreaded South African variant was spreading among them.

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In a press conference held on that day, FDWs were called a “high risk” group since they supposedly gather in large numbers during their day-off, and then return to their employers’ houses where they take care of the elderly or young children.

It turned out that a Filipina helper in Tung Chung who was identified as the first carrier of a variant from an unknown source, had acquired it indirectly from an Indian man who had just arrived from Dubai and was infected during his hotel quarantine.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

After the massive testing that was held over just nine days, only three migrant workers, all of them Filipinas, tested positive for Covid-19, but the feared “silent transmission” among them was not found.

FDWs lined up for hours to get tested in compliance with the govt order

They included two Filipinas who were linked to the Indian returnee, and a third whose case was classified as “possibly local” because she had recently arrived from Manila, and was found to carry antibodies, suggesting an old infection. 

According to the government statement, from May 1 until 6pm on May 9, nearly 340 000 FDWs had been tested at 21 community testing centres (CTCs) and mobile specimen collection stations or submitted deep throat saliva specimen.

 “Moreover, it is estimated that around 40,000 FDHs have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine,” said the statement.

The government also defended the mandatory testing for FDHs, which had been assailed by migrant leaders as discriminatory. 

"For local cases with unknown sources of infection involving mutant strains, the Government has to be decisive in adopting swiftly stringent testing and quarantine measures, with an aim to cutting the transmission chains as soon as possible. Otherwise, the whole society will have to bear significant consequence when there is a major outbreak,” said the statement.

It also said that during free voluntary testing offered to FDHs between December last year until the end of February this year, only 34,000 took up the offer, or less than 10 percent of their total number.

The government’s announced plan of compelling all FDHs to submit proof of vaccination when applying for visa renewal has been withdrawn amid a public backlash.

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