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HK to quarantine all foreign arrivals, including migrant workers

17 March 2020

By The SUN
The new quarantine measure raises question of where migrant workers will stay, and who will look after them

Foreign domestic workers who will arrive in Hong Kong from their home countries from Mar 19 could face a tough time, as they will be included in the city’s new move to put all foreign arrivals under home quarantine or surveillance for 14 days.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the new measure today, Mar 17, amid recent data showing nearly all of Hong Kong’s new cases are imported, meaning they have been brought in by people arriving from various parts of the world.

As of today, the city’s confirmed cases rose to 162, with five more people testing positive, including a French student who studied in Switzerland.
Lam said after an Executive Council meeting that the new measure does not apply to those arriving from Macau or Taiwan. She said arrivals from China had already been required to isolate at home since February.

She said the decision was taken after top officials met expert advisers, who said Hong Kong needed to shift to control of imported infections to curb the spread of the coronavirus, now that the epicenter of the contagion had shifted from China to overseas.

Most of the cases confirmed in the previous two weeks involved patients who had recently been abroad, Lam said.

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“If we do not impose tougher measures at this stage, our previous efforts to prevent the disease from spreading throughout these two months could be completely wasted,” Lam said before the Executive Council meeting.

“If all these imported cases lead to a community outbreak, the consequence will be unimaginable and increase the burden on the public health system.”

CE Lam says the imported cases could lead to a community outbreak
Home quarantine is a cause for concern for arriving migrant domestic workers as a problem could arise as to where they should stay, or who should be attending to them while they self-isolate.

Employers are not likely to agree to look after them, on top of taking them in, given Hong Kong’s problem with lack of space.
For Filipino domestic workers who are scrambling to book tickets back to Hong Kong as a result of a recent community lockdown imposed by the Philippine government on its biggest island that includes Metro Manila, the quarantine would be an extra cause for distress.

One of them is M.L., who says she is stuck in the central province of Iloilo, and is still serving a 14-day self-quarantine mandated by the Philippine government on all Filipinos who fly in from Hong Kong.

Aside from mobility problems because of the lockdown and quarantine, M.L. faces a difficulty getting a flight back in Hong Kong, as all airports in Metro Manila and surrounding areas will close down, also on Mar 19.

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Other Filipino domestic workers who are similarly stranded in the Philippines also find themselves having to grapple with serving out two quarantines that will make them out of work, and out of pay, for at least a month.

As of this writing, 183,055 cases were reported globally with the death toll from nearly 150 countries rising to 7,415.  

China still has the most cases at 80,881 and the highest death toll at 3,226, but its new cases and deaths were reported to be declining.

The mainland tally has been exceeded by the total number of cases and deaths in Italy, Iran, Spain, Korea, France, Germany and the United States

Italy has 27,980 cases with 2,158 deaths, becoming the new epicenter of the contagion.

In its latest update, the Centre for Health Protection confirmed that an 18-year-old French Hong Kong student who returned from Switzerland on Mar 15 had tested positive for the virus, becoming the city’s 158th case.

The CHP also said two university students who had just returned from Britain were among three who tested initially positive Covid-19 on Mar 17.

Among the eight confirmed or positive cases since last night, seven had travel history. At least four of them had just returned to the city and were among 21 patients who were diverted from Hong Kong airport to nine hospitals on Monday night.

The CHP also said the foreign domestic helper of a 73-year-old patient in Tuen Mun who tested positive of Covid-19 on Mar 13 will be put under quarantine after the wife of the patient was admitted into hospital but found preliminarily negative of the virus.

The maid’s nationality has not been disclosed.

Meanwhile, Lam announced that it was “quite impossible” to fully resume school classes on Apr 20 considering the second wave of imported infections. She added no large-scale events would be organized by the government due to the imported cases.

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