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Woes continue for Filipina DHs who contract Covid-19

03 March 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap

Lei Yue Mun camp, where a Filipina DH was taken after testing positive in a lockdown

Foreign domestic workers continue to bear the brunt of the relentless surge in Covid-19 infections across Hong Kong.

Despite warnings from the government that FDWs who contract the coronavirus disease should not be terminated or discriminated against, many employers refuse to take heed, even with the threat of a fine of up to $100,000 or prosecution under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance.

The workers are most vulnerable because once they are kicked out of their employers’ homes they have nowhere to go. Those who are not sacked outright are made to feel like outcasts they end up feeling they should just leave, or suffer more abuse.


Many non-government organizations and churches have stepped up to help, but with no signs of the fifth wave of infections peaking just yet, many of the places that have been offered them for their isolation have all been filled up by now.

A few initially got lucky because just as they were about to be thrown out onto the streets by their employers they were told they would be moved to an isolation facility. But to their dismay, life just got worse when they returned to their employers’ house after their compulsory isolation.


One of these was Malen, who was tested positive during a lockdown of their building in Sau Mau Ping on Feb 24. As she was the only one in their household who was found infected, her employer immediately ordered her to leave and go to a public hospital, knowing full well that she would just be turned away there as she had only mild symptoms.

As Malen frantically started calling for help, news came that she was just one of 163 people who had tested positive in their building, so the government decided to take them all to the Lei Yue Mun isolation camp.

Lei Yue Mun camp on a lonely night
On Wednesday, after Malen tested negative on her 6th and 7th day in isolation, she was told she would be released. She was put on a van that same night and taken to a bus station where she took a ride home.

What greeted her on her return to her employer’s flat was worse than on the day she left, when she was all but practically pushed out the door. Malen said the first thing that her employer did was to order her to throw out all the clothes that she had used while in isolation.


Sobra itong amo ko, dapat hindi na lang niya ako tinanggap,” Malen wrote. (My employer is terrible, she should have just turned me away).

Sobra yung discrimination pag-uwi mo ng bahay. Bakit daw hindi 14 days ako nag-stay doon, tapos yung hamster at halaman daw namatay dahil nahawa sa akin.” (The discrimination shown me on my return home has been too much. She asked why I was not kept in the facility for 14 days, then she said the hamster and the plant in their home died because I passed on the virus to them).

Malen is now seriously thinking of just quitting, but is unsure of where she’ll go at such a difficult time. If she decides to stay and try her luck at looking for a new employer she knows she will have to wait interminably for the Immigration Department to decide on her case.


More importantly, she will have to look for a place to stay and pay for her own food and other expenses while waiting for a new employment visa that might never come.

Another worker suffered a similar fate after she was released from a 14-day stay at Penny’s Bay isolation facility, also on Wednesday. When she dared ask for more food during a meal, her employer immediately told her to pack her things and leave.

According to Marites Palma, founder of Social Justice for Migrant Workers, the second Filipina was just one of four domestic workers who were driven out of their employers’ homes on Wednesday.

Another worker, Jessie, was told to self-isolate inside her employer’s car parked in open air in a Kowloon Tong estate after she tested positive. A third was driven out after she ran a fever and her employer thought she might have the virus, while the fourth was sacked after she begged to be given more food.

Palma said all four women have now been given shelter by different groups, but the trauma of having been thrown out on the streets amid the pandemic lingers. 

Bags belonging to one of the Filipinas sacked Wednesday night (Palma's photo)

Jessie was not the first to have been shooed out of the house and told to camp inside her employer’s car.

Another helper, Ruby, chickened on her first attempt to protest the unconscionable act on Feb 21. She said her employer was warned by someone from the Consulate after she reported her plight, and in turn, she was scolded.

But after two days inside the car’s cramped space, Ruby finally took up an invitation from Social Justice and a non-government organization to move to a temporary isolation facility.

There have been many others who had to spend the night out in the cold and rain last week because they were unceremoniously sacked or driven away. Many more could suffer the same fate unless more people, or the Hong Kong government with prodding from the Philippine Consulate, open isolation facilities for them.

As Palma said in a Facebook post, “How many more workers will be kicked out when they get sick or when they ask for more food?”

If the situation was dire previously for FDWs who were driven out of their employers’ house at the mere expediency of a month’s salary in lieu of notice, it is much more so now with the coronavirus raging, stoking unreasonable fears and heightened discrimination.

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