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Only 1 Covid-19 case reported in HK

Posted on 26 September 2020 No comments

By The SUN

In a further sign or normalcy, children have started going back to school last week

No local case of Covid-19 infection was reported in Hong Kong today, Sept 26. Only one imported case, a 48-year-old cargo plane crew who flew in from Bahrain, was recorded, raising the city’s tally to 5,059.

According to the Centre for Health Protection, the infected crew arrived on Sept 24 and tested positive at the airport. He developed symptoms on Sept. 21.

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Two crew members on the same plane were classified as close contacts and have been put under quarantine.

As of last night, 4,777 patients with confirmed or probable infection have been discharged from hospital so far, with 105 related deaths.

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A total of 149 confirmed patients are currently hospitalised in 16 public hospitals, among which 11 are in critical condition, nine are in serious condition and the remaining 129 patients are in stable condition.

It was the first day that no new local infection was reported since Sept. 15, and the sixth consecutive day of single-digit case.

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The news came as Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared in a post on her official Facebook page that the third wave of Covid-19 infection has been put under control, but warned of threats from silent carriers.

While the government has further relaxed social distancing measures, she reminded people not to let their guard down, as a fourth wave of infections could occur this winter.

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4 infected DHs to join bosses after release, but 1 more faces removal

Posted on 25 September 2020 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

4 OFWs found infected in HK won't be sent back home like 3 others 

Four newly arrived Filipina domestic helpers who were released on Sept 24 from coronavirus treatment in Hong Kong hospitals will be taking up their new jobs after their employers agreed to admit them after letting them rest for awhile elsewhere.

But another helper who tested positive at Hong Kong airport on her arrival from Manila on Sept 9 was told her employer had backed out. She is still awaiting word from the Immigration Department on whether she’d be sent back home.

If that happens, she’d be the fourth new arrival to be removed by Immigration upon release from hospital because her prospective employer cancelled their work contract.

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The fate of the four newly-arrived Filipina DHs was shared by Marites Palma, founder of Social Justice for Migrant Workers and a contributor of The SUN.

Palma (in white blouse) with her Social Justice members give food aid to quarantined OFWs

The initial removals have prompted Consul General Raly Tejada to ask the Hong Kong government to clarify Immigration’s apparent shift in policy from the previous practice of giving terminated foreign helpers 14 days to wind up their business in the city.

As of midnight last night, the third would-be helper to be removed from Hong Kong after her hospital confinement for Covid-19 was put on a flight back to Manila, said Palma.

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The expelled helper, C.A., a 35-year-old mother of four, was distraught last night after being told by her Hong Kong employment agency, Golden Win, about her impending removal.

In a telephone interview, the worker said the loss of job is a big blow to her family, as she had spent Php100,000 in borrowed money to come to Hong Kong, only to be sent back home. The former Kuwait OFW said her family depended on her as her husband, a construction worker, gets only intermittent jobs.

She said Php45,000 of what she borrowed went to pay fees charged by her employment agency in Manila, Placewell International Services, including Php5,980 for the nucleic acid test, or swab test, at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.

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Welfare Officer Marivic Castro Clarin of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office in Hong Kong, said the expelled workers can qualify for a Php20,000 livelihood assistance from OWWA and a Php10,000 or US$200 handout under the DOLE-OWWA Akap program.

“Yes, but di ko po alam ang local situation sa bawat region. Limited din ang galaw ng mga tao namin. Marami na po ang nahawa sa kanila,” Clarin replied when asked about her agency’s assistance for the removed helpers.

C.A. said she and 12 other first-timers who were sent by their agency to the Lung Center for a swab test on Sept 7, received their certificates of negative result the next day.

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On the morning of Sept 9, C.A. and the rest of the group arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport and were immediately given a swab test.

She and E.G.S., the second to be sent home after discharge from hospital, were among five members of their batch to test positive for Covid-19, and were immediately taken to various public hospitals.

C.A. said the nasal swab at the airport showed a negative result for the virus, but her deep-throat saliva sample tested positive. She was perplexed because both tests conducted on her at the Lung Center found none of the virus.

The first to be sent home on Sept 19 was Ermelyn Deno, who tested positive at the airport only a week earlier. She was taken directly to Hong Kong airport after being discharged from seven days of confinement at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital.

Then, on Sept 23, Immigration sent home E.G.S., four days after she was released from Princess Margaret Hospital. She stayed in Manila for two days, but flew on to her home in Bacolod City late this afternoon.

She said she faces another problem when she gets there, as she does not have a required clearance from her barangay to return home.

But Clarin, who handled E.G.S.’s case, said the barangay clearance would be issued only after the worker completes a 14-day quarantine in her locality.

E.G.S. said before boarding her flight to Bacolod that she was going home with just  Php1,000 cash aid from Placewell, her agency in Manila, plus an additional Php500 for delivering some documents to them from Hong Kong.

Adding to her distress was that she was given a piece of luggage that belonged to someone else, so she had only the dress she arrived in the whole time she was in Hong Kong, except when she was in hospital.

She said she was able to change into a new dress delivered to her by an OWWA staff in Manila at the request of Clarin.

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Employment visa processing can be as fast as 2 weeks, says Immigration

Posted on No comments

 By Daisy CL Mandap

Those who finished their contracts can expect to have a new employment visa in 2 weeks

There is good news, but there is also bad news, from Hong Kong Immigration.

For the good news: it’s not true that all terminated foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) are now being sent home immediately, and not even given the customary 14-day grace period after their contracts are prematurely terminated.

What’s more, the processing of new employment visas can be as fast as two weeks for those who completed their previous two-year contracts. Various reports indicate that for terminated FDHs, employment visas are released faster as well, in most cases, in less than a month from the filing of the application.

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The assurance about the faster visa processing came from Immigration Department itself, in the wake of widespread talk about a supposed new policy to refuse new employment visa applications from terminated workers, who are also told to leave immediately.

What is actually happening, Immigration’s information office told The SUN in response to an emailed query, is that several measures had been taken to provide “more flexible visa arrangements to FDHs and their employers” in the wake of the pandemic.

Such measures were relaxed further after a series of Covid-19 infections were reported in dormitories run by employment agencies, all involving FDHs who were in-between jobs.


An outbreak among FDHs in agency dorms prompted the faster processing of employment visas

“(To) reduce as far as possible the number of FDHs and their length of stay in boarding facilities, ImmD has expedited the processing of work visa applications submitted by those FDHs who are in Hong Kong, especially the applications from those whose employment contracts expire normally.  The processing time for the applications concerned has been reduced from between 4 and 6 weeks to about 2 weeks only at present,” said the Immigration statement.

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As for entry visa applications, meaning those pertaining to FDHs who are outside Hong Kong, the statement said the processing time of 6 weeks is still the norm.

No mention was made as to how long a terminated worker can expect her new employment visa to be released, but various testimonies from FDHs who recently switched employers indicate the waiting time is now less than 4 weeks in most cases.

But, the bad news is, not everyone with terminated contracts can expect to be allowed to stay and process a new employment visa here.

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According to Immigration, those who will not be allowed to remain and change employers in Hong Kong are those found to be “job-hopping.”

“ImmD will closely scrutinise the case details such as the number and reasons for premature contract termination in the last 12 months in assessing FDHs' applications for employment,” said the Immigration statement. 

“For suspected "job-hopping" cases, ImmD will refuse their applications for working for a new employer and require them to leave Hong Kong.”

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The statement said Immigration does not keep a record of those refused to process new contracts due to job-hopping, but said there were 237 FDH visa applications refused from January to August this year.

In a series of moves since the coronavirus outbreak made international travel difficult, Immigration has taken steps to respond to problems faced by both employers and FDHs.

These measures include: (1) allowing employers to have the visa of their current FDHs extended up to Oct 31 this year; (2) allowing FDHs whose contracts are about to end, or have been terminated, to apply for an extension of stay, and process new employment applications here; and (3) deferring the home leave of newly hired FDHs by at least one year, with subsequent applications for further deferrals to be decided on a case to case basis.

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PCG asks HK to clarify stance on OFW Covid patients as 3rd to be sent home

Posted on 24 September 2020 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

Congen Tejada is asking HK to explain why the positive OFWs are now all being sent home

The Philippine Consulate is seeking clarification from the Hong Kong government about the Immigration Department’s removal of two newly arrived Filipino domestic workers who had tested positive for coronavirus inspection.

This comes as a  third newly arrived Filipina helper, C.A., was reportedly told by her Hong Kong agent this evening, Sept 24, that she would be sent home after her release from hospital. The reason she got was the same as in the first two cases: their employers had reportedly backed out.

C.A. and the second to be removed, E.G.S., were both part of a batch of 13 helpers who arrived on Sept 9. Ten of them have been found infected so far. Five tested positive on arrival, three the next day, and another one after a few days.

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The latest to be told she would be sent home, C.A., said her doctor at Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung told her she should be released today but her visa had expired so she could not leave the hospital.

Consul General Raly Tejada has expressed concern about the apparent policy shift in the Hong Kong government's stance towards newly arrived Filipino domestic helpers who test positive for Covid-19.

“We are urging the Hong Kong government to clarify their stance so that we know what exactly is happening,” Congen Tejada said today, Sept 24, in response to an enquiry by The SUN.

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“We have contacted the HK Immigration early this week to get clarity about this new unpronounced policy,” ConGen Tejada added.

Deno's employment visa was not stamped, suggesting she never entered HK

Immigration authorities sent home a newly arrived Filipina helper, Ermelyn Deno, early morning last Saturday after she was discharged hours earlier by doctors at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital.

Then yesterday, Sept 23, they sent home E.G.S from the Sept 9 flight, four days after she was released from Princess Margaret Hospital. The third, C.A., is still waiting for word on when she would be picked up from the hospital and sent home.


ConGen Tejada said Immigration’s standard reply when asked about the two removals was that the employer had backed out on both occasions, rendering the workers jobless.

This was the same reason given to The SUN which made direct inquiries with Immigration, after learning about Deno’s case. Two staff members said there is no policy for removing all newly arrived FDHs who test positive, but in Deno’s case it was her employer who backed out of their contract.

ConGen said he expressed concern about the apparent policy shift, but the Immigration authorities said in response that they would meet with other concerned agencies first, like the Health Department, before making a definitive comment.

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ConGen Tejada said the Consulate has reported the matter to both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment in Manila

On the other hand, he said Hong Kong has not raised issue with the big number of Filipino domestic workers who test positive on arrival despite presenting a negative result for Covid-19 before departing Manila.

Hong Kong has not made any formal complaints to our government,” the top Filipino government official here said.

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“They already put us on a watchlist of high risk countries and put additional measures to ensure that our workers are Covid-free before arriving in Hong Kong such as mandatory Covid test 72 hours before leaving the country and 14 days hotel booking for the mandatory quarantine,” he said.

E.G.S., the second removal case in four days, said that like Deno, she and the 12 others from her batch who were deployed by the same agency in Manila, were sent to the Lung Center of the Philippines for their swab test on Sept 7.

E.G.S's negative test result. All 3 infected OFWs were cleared by the Lung Center

They all received their negative test results at the airport on the evening of Sept 8, which took just over 24 hours. E.G.S. said she paid Php5,980 for the test.

The first two cases were brought to The SUN’s attention by Marites Palma, founder of the Social Justice for Migrant Workers. Palma, who is also a contributor to The SUN, said she immediately informed the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration about Deno’s case.

But Labor Attaché Melchor Dizon, who heads Polo, has so far remained silent on the two removal cases.

Deno was quietly taken by Immigration to the airport, straight from her release from Eastern Hospital on Saturday morning, Sept 19. She arrived on Sept. 12 and sent to the hospital the next day after testing positive. 

Before being taken to the hospital, she was made to sign a recognizance paper with instructions to go straight to the airport for her flight home after her release.

However, Immigration staff told The SUN Deno was removed because she had no right to remain in Hong Kong after her prospective employer backed out due to her infection.    

For E.G.S., this would have been her first stint in Hong Kong after working for eight years in Singapore. She said she was recruited by Placewell International Services Corp in Manila, which charged her Php45,000 for the Hong Kong job.

E.G.S. said she was shocked when a female staff of her agency here, Golden Full (HK) Ltd, told her on Sept 20 that her employer had cancelled her contract and she would be sent home.

She said the agency staff told her it was Immigration policy for incoming foreign helpers who test positive for Covid-19 upon arrival. The owner of Golden Full, which recruited her, reiterated this in a message to E.G.S.

“This is law of HK. You must go home immediately after discharge from hospital,” the agency owner said in a message.

He and his staff told E.G.S. her employer backed out because she has a four-month-old baby who could be put at risk because of the maid's infection.

The Immigration officer who asked E.G.S. to sign some documents before her departure reportedly gave the same answer when she asked why she was being sent home.

She was discharged the next day and moved to a quarantine center where she was told to wait for her flight to Manila. The agency bought her an air ticket and on the evening of Sept 22, she was driven to the airport. She left early the next day via Hong Kong Airlines.

An Immigration officer gave back her passport, its visa page unstamped, after E.G.S.  signed some documents the contents of which she said could no longer remember.

To compound her woes, E.G.S. was handed a luggage which, she found to her dismay on arrival in Manila, belonged to another Filipina Covid patient. 

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3 Filipina DHs under quarantine among 7 new Covid-19 cases

Posted on No comments

By The SUN

Two of the infected Filipinas flew aboard CX 906, the other on PAL 300.

Three Filipina domestic helpers who arrived on two different dates this month are among seven new confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported today, Sept 24. They brought Hong Kong’s total tally to 5,057.

All three arrived on Sept. 12, a staff member of the Hong Kong Health Department said.

It was on the same day that another Filipina, Ermelyn Deno, tested positive on arrival at the airport. She was taken to a hospital for treatment, but on her discharge on Sept 19, was immediately removed or sent home by Immigration, reportedly because her employer had backed out of their contract.

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Another FDH in the same situation was also sent home for the same reason on Sept 22.

However, Immigration staff have said there is no official policy to remove all newly arrived FDHs who test positive at the airport, or during quarantine, in Hong Kong.

Among those who could suffer the same fate are the three new cases. 

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Two flew aboard Cathay Pacific Flight CX 906, a 31-year-old woman staying at the Dorsett Hotel in Wanchai, and a 40-year-old quarantined in Silka Hotel in Yau Ma Tei.

The third, who is 40 years old,  was on board Philippine Airlines Flight PR 300, and stayed at the Dorsett n Wanchai.

No other information was given, as the regular press briefing conducted by the DH was not held for the second straight day because there were no local cases with unknown source, a major concern for health authorities.

Yesterday, there were only three new cases, the lowest daily tally since the third wave started in early July.

Yesterday's 3 cases were the smallest daily tally since early July

A fourth imported case is a 32-year-old female who arrived from Britain, and was quarantined at HK Skycity Marriott Hotel in Chek Lap Kok.

Reports now say the Hong Kong government will include Britain in its list of high-risk countries, for which all new arrivals will have to present a negative result for a nucleic acid test for Covid-19 before being allowed to depart their destination.

Ten countries were previously put in the list, including the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Kazakshtan and the United States.

Today’s three local cases linked to previous infections are two females aged 40 and 50, and a man aged 52. The women live in Tin Shui Wai and Tuen Mun, while the man’s address is not shown, indicating he was in a quarantine centre.

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A total of 166 confirmed cases are in public hospitals, with 12 critical, 10 serious, and 144 in stable condition. The death toll stands at 104.

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Young Filipina DH found floating in Lam Tin pool passes away

Posted on 23 September 2020 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap

Adrelyn's Facebook cover photo shows her in one of her favorite pastime activities

Mystery surrounds the death of Adrelyn Peralta Onera, 28, who was found floating in a pool in Laguna City estate in Lam Tin on Sunday afternoon.

Onera, described by her family and friends as a fun-loving but responsible person, was declared dead at United Christian Hospital at around 3pm today, Sept 23.

She had been on life support since she was fished from the water by a Laguna City lifeguard, and was reportedly given only 20 percent of survival.

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The exact cause of her death is unknown.

Her younger half-sister, Jenny Mae Bandillon, told The SUN that the doctors at United Christian had ruled out drowning as the cause of death because there was hardly any water inside Adrelyn’s body.

But there were no signs, either, or any fractures or concussion, eliminating the widely held theory that she had slipped and hit her head on a hard surface.

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According to Mae, the doctor thinks Adrelyn’s body just stopped beating while she was in the water, and had asked if the deceased had any pre-existing ailment, or if they had a history of heart problems.

However, Mae says her “ate” had always been strong and physically active, spending her rest days mostly doing outdoor activities like swimming in the open sea, or hiking.

She was known to be a fit  and daring swimmer and hiker

On the day she died, Adrelyn reportedly spent the morning resting inside her room, then chatted over lunch with her son who will turn 12 on Sept. 27. In the afternoon, she borrowed the access pass to the estate’s swimming pool from her employer then left.

About 30 minutes later, the employer reportedly said the police and the estate’s lifeguard had come knocking on their door to say Adrelyn had been taken to hospital after she was found floating lifeless on the pool.

In-between sobs, Mae painted a picture of a loving mother, daughter and big sister in Adrelyn, who took on the responsibility as the family’s breadwinner at a young age.

While singlehandedly raising a son, Adrelyn also sent her four younger siblings to school, provided for their widowed mother, and even managed to buy her own house in their hometown of Dingle, Iloilo.

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At about 8pm every night, Adrelyn would video-chat with her family in Dingle and in Quezon City where Mae and a brother have moved for work. Sometimes, says Mae, Adrelyn’s young ward to whom she was very close, would also join them.

It was thus a surprise, says Mae, when her ate did not initiate their usual video chat that day. About two hours later, she got a call from one of Adrelyn’s friends who said her ate was in the hospital’s ICU and was comatose.

Mae says she did not believe this at first because she could see that her ate was “online” on messenger. Hoping against hope, she kept calling Adrelyn, but received no reply.

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Finally, after several tries, someone picked up the call. It was Adrelyn’s employer, who confirmed the heartbreaking news.

Adrelyn’s family is now planning to write a letter to Consul General Raly Tejada to ask for help in urging the Hong Kong Police to conduct a full and thorough investigation into her death. Through this, hopefully, they could put a closure to the tragic event. 

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