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Shunned after getting Covid-19, 5 Filipina DHs are now safely together

20 February 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap


The 5 rescued workers are all happy now, though an uncertain future still awaits most of them

A few days ago, each of these five Filipina domestic helpers thought their world had come crashing down. After learning they had contracted Covid-19, they all found themselves being treated as outcasts, even by fellow helpers they used to live with.

Two were asked by their new employers to move out and look for a boarding house, fearing that they could bring the virus into their flats, and infect their elderly wards. 

Two others were asked to leave by their fellow helpers with whom they lived in a boarding house.

The last one, Angel, spent two nights in a Kowloon park as she had nowhere to go after  testing positive in a Covid-19 test just hours before she was set to fly out to the Philippines.

Each had a heartbreaking story to tell about what they had to go through until kindly souls heard of their plight and found them a boarding house in Sai Ying Pun where they now live together.


Everyone happily says they are well-provided for by the non-government organization, Help for Domestic Helpers, while they spend the mandatory 14-day isolation period in the shelter.

But until they were found, each of the helpers had to spend at least a night out in the cold and rain, while waiting for help from the various individuals and groups they had contacted.

Two of them, Girlie and Jean, camped outside Queen Mary Hospital in Pokfulam on Monday night after they were checked at the accident and emergency section and told they needed to go home for isolation.

The problem was, they had no place to go. Jean was asked by her employer to look for a boarding house, but she knew nobody would take her in if they learned she was Covid-positive.

Girlie was on a live-out arrangement and was told by her boardmates they could not allow her back in after learning of her positive test result.


Both said it hurt to be driven away by staff at the hospital after a perfunctory check-up. They were not even told there was a tent nearby where other patients waiting to be admitted could stay, so they ended up laying on the concrete floor near a bus stop while waiting for a rescue.

The third, Mai, was also staying in a boarding house after terminating her employment contract. The Sunday before she had gone out and got wet in the rain, and developed a runny nose. She decided to do a rapid antigen test on Wednesday, and the result was positive.

As soon as her fellow boarders heard about her positive result, they distanced themselves from her.  They insisted on staying in their respective beds and refused to have dinner in their common area so Mai had no choice but to leave the flat.

She stayed outdoors in a space nearby, with just a sheer tent the other women had lent her to shield her from the cold and rain. The bad cold she was nursing got worse overnight.


Her close friend, Jo, reached out to a number of people, including the Consulate, but could not find a place for Mai to stay.

Jo said in message, “Nakakalungkot po, padami ng padami ang cases, wala po silang nakahandang paglagyan sa mga kababayan natin na walang mapuntahan. Maswerte po yung iba na mabait ang amo, paano naman yung kagaya ng case ng kaibigan ko? Wala naman akong magawa para sa kanya kundi damayan siya through call at maghanap ng matatawagan na makakatulong sa kanya. Sana po mailapit ninyo sa mga nasa government ang issue na ito.”

(It’s sad because the cases are piling up but they can’t seem to find a place for our sick compatriots who don’t have anywhere to go. Some are lucky to have kind employers, but how about cases like my friend? I can’t even help her aside from comforting her through phone calls and look for someone who could help her. I hope you could bring this issue to people in government).

Luckily, Mai was contacted by someone who managed to put her in the same boarding house secured by HELP.


Another woman sheltering in the same flat is Lyn, who is just waiting for her new work visa to be released. While at the house of her prospective employer last Friday she developed a sore throat, so she did an antigen test, and got a positive result.

That same afternoon her employer asked their employment agency to book Lyn a swab test with a private doctor in Aberdeen, and the result was positive. She was told to go home and isolate.

Later that same day she took another rapid test and the result was again positive. The agency staff asked her to book a room in a boarding house and not tell anyone about her condition, but she resisted, saying that would not be fair to others staying in the same unit.

She ended up staying in her employer’s backdoor space for an entire day, before she was given the telephone number of someone called Jenny who gave her the address of the isolation flat in Sai Ying Pun.


Now Mai just hopes to get through the 14 days without experiencing any severe symptoms so she can move back in with her new employer as she expects her visa to be issued by Immigration next month.

Angel spent many nights camped out on this park bench after she tested positive

That is something that Angel cannot look forward to, as her application to move to another employer was rejected by Immigration with finality on Feb. 9, after two months of waiting.

The rejection came as a shock to both Angel and her prospective employer, as she had completed four years of service with her first employer before she moved in with a new one whom she said treated so badly that she was forced to terminate their contract.

Angel said she was so stressed during this time that she lost 11 kilos in just three months. She also suffered from a bad back as she was made to sleep in the laundry area with just a narrow and thin comforter between her and the cold tiled floor.

With her visa set to expire on Feb 17, she booked a flight for Manila on Feb 16. Early on Feb 14, she took her suitcase from storage and went to a community testing centre in Yau Tong to get the required pre-flight Covid-19 test.

She did not get her test result immediately but on Feb 15 she received a notification from CHP to log in her HKID number to view the result. Failing to do this after repeated tries, she went back to the testing centre late that night, and was told the bad news: She tested preliminary positive, which meant she couldn’t fly.

As she had no symptoms, the testing centre told her to go home for isolation. Despite her repeated pleas for help in booking an isolation facility as she had no place to go home to, she was asked to leave.

Not knowing where to go, she went back to sleeping in a park bench nearby, her suitcases strewn about her. During that time she said she had to fend off several sleazy propositions from men who hung out in the area.

At one point, she awakened to see three young locals who said they were handing out masks to the public and doing other social work. When she told them she had tested positive, the three scampered away.

Still, some local netizens who saw her took pity and posted her photos on Facebook, which then found their way into an online publication, and ultimately, to charity workers who got her admitted into the boarding house. 

Girlie, Jean, Mai, Lyn and Angel are among a growing number of foreign domestic workers who are being cast out of flats and dormitories as the coronavirus surge continues to intensify.

The stigma attached to the most infectious Covid-19 strain appears to be the main reason, but many people are often also anxious not to get infected as that would prevent them from going about their normal lives, and even put their precious jobs on the line.

But whatever the reason, there clearly is a need to set aside an isolation facility for migrant workers who remain one of the most vulnerable and targeted sectors in the society, and now bear the brunt of the discrimination and mass hysteria sparked by one of the worst scourges of our time.

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