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Free Covid-19 tests offered to FDHs as no new case linked to boarding house cluster

16 December 2020

By The SUN 

Bethune House has made all its clients take two Covid-19 tests so far

Hong Kong health officials have announced that free coronavirus tests will be offered to all foreign domestic helpers from this Friday, Dec 18, until the end of January.

The move was announced today, Dec 16, even though no new cases were detected from a Tai Po boarding house for FDHS, where a total of 12 infections were linked the past two days.

Eight of the patients from the cluster are FDHs (seven Filipinas and one Indonesian) while four are an employer’s family members.

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The announcement was welcomed by Filipino community members who either run or stay in boarding houses, saying they had been encouraging everyone who lives with them to get tested to ensure they all remain safe.

Edwina Antonio, who runs the Bethune House Migrant Women's Refuge which has a shelter in Sheung Wan and Jordan, said all their clients have had two Covid-19 tests so far. 

She said everyone would be asked to get tested anew because all of them go out on Sundays.

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As a further precaution, everyone who goes out has to take a shower as soon as they arrive in the shelter, and are prevented from going near the beds until they have done so.

Since the third outbreak of infections in early July, Bethune House has also stopped taking in new clients, referring those who seek shelter to other boarding houses.

"Binibigyan naman namin sila ng masks at sanitizers, parang nakatira din sila sa BH," said Antonio. "Kung ano ang benefits ng nasa BH ganoon din yung nasa dormitories o hostels. (We also give them masks and sanitizers, as if they were also staying in BH. Whatever benefits BH clients get, this is also given to those in the dormitories or hostels).

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Baby Jean de Leon, who just moved in with a new employer after staying in a boarding house in Sheung Wan for months, said all the boarders there are told to maintain cleanliness and practice hygiene at all times.

All of them also submitted themselves to the free Covid-19 tests twice in the past, she said.

Chuang says FDHs with symptoms should not take the free test but seek medical help immediately

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection made the announcement at today’s press briefing on the coronavirus situation, where she reported 82 new cases, all but three of them locally acquired. More than 80 preliminary positive cases were also detected.

PINDUTIN PARA SA DETALYE

Chuang said any one of the nearly 400,000 FDHs in the city can take the free test, unless they have symptoms, in which case they should go straight to a doctor.

“If any of the foreign domestic helpers have any symptoms, they should seek medical advice as soon as possible. This scheme is for the asymptomatic ones or those who foresee they have risks or they went out during weekends and had some gatherings, they are especially called for testing,” she said.

She dismissed suggestions of FDHs gathering in large numbers for the free tests, especially on Sundays when they have their day off, saying online registration is required before anyone can be tested in a community testing centre.

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FDHs may also ask for a specimen collection kit from designated MTR stations or from post offices, and return these with their saliva samples to the 47 general outpatient clinics of the Hospital Authority of 13 clinics of the Department of Health. Details can be found on this website: www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/early-testing.html.

Meanwhile, Dr Linda Yu from the Hospital Authority warned the public not to delay getting medical treatment if they experience any symptoms, citing the significant rise in the number of patients who are critically or seriously ill.

Yu said that of the 1,127 confirmed patients who are being treated in 22 public hospitals and the AsiaWorld-Expo treatment facility, 59 are in critical condition, 69 are seriously ill, and 999 are in stable condition.

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She said of those admitted to hospital yesterday, four were in critical condition, and three were serious.

Usually, she said patients would experience only mild symptoms in the first week, but would deteriorate rapidly in the second week. Some were so sick on being admitted to hospital they had to be intubated.

“So we advise the public, if they feel unwell, they should get tested immediately,” Yu said.

Chuang also reported new infections in some public housing blocks.

Six cases were found in separate flats of Ming Lai House in Choi Wan Estate in Ngau Chi Wan so officials will inspect the building, Chuang said five of the infected units face the same direction and are located on different floors.

Three cases were also detected were also detected on the 32nd floor of Jat Min Chuen in Sha Tin. Residents at units 1-12- 14 and 16 on that floor will be quarantined.

One resident of Lung San House, Lung Poon Court in Wong Tai Sin tested positive. Sample bottles will be distributed to residents and compulsory testing notice will be issued this evening to all residents of Lung San House.

Chuang said it was too early to say that the peak of the fourth wave had been reached, as the number of new cases remain high. She called on everyone to remain vigilant.

“We have not seen the numbers going down. Whether it’s the peak or not... whether it will further increase depends on the coming situation, whether there are any abnormal events, abnormal gatherings or abnormal spread in the community. Any one event may result in large number of cases as happened previously,” she said..

The three imported cases reported today included two sea crew who each arrived from Ukraine  and Russia, and a returnee from Pakistan

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