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No last-minute rush as second round of mandatory testing for FDHs ends

30 May 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

People came in trickles on last day of the second round of mandatory tests for FDHs


The second round of compulsory coronavirus testing for all 370,000 foreign domestic helpers ended today, May 30, with no last-minute rush at the mobile testing stations set up at their favorite rest-day haunts.

Both helpers and vaccination site staff said the lines were quite long before the testing stations opened at 10am but were gone after just an hour.

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Shortly before noon at the Chater Garden and Edinburgh mobile testing sites in Central, only a handful of workers were observed going to the tents to be swabbed.

This time around, there was only one truck and two testing tents set up in Chater Garden, unlike the past Sunday when there were two vans and four tents. At Edinburgh Place, where even non-FDHs could go for a test, there was also just one truck and four tents.

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Over at Tamar Park in Admiralty, no more mobile testing station was on sight, and only a thin crowd of Filipinos gathered to rest.

At Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, where mostly Indonesian domestic helpers spend their rest days, the same sight greeted an observer. Only a handful of workers strolled up to the two testing tents set up at the far end of the park.

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Lisa, a Chinese health staff supervising the testing at Chater Garden, estimated that only around 100 workers had showed up to be tested by 11:30am.

“Before we started testing at 10am, there were a lot of domestic helpers who were lined up under the shaded tents,” Lisa said.

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“After the early crowd was tested, as you see now, just a few of them are coming one by one or in pairs. Maybe most of them already tested in community testing centers or dropped their samples at various drop sites,” she said.

A larger mobile testing center set up at Edinburgh Place attracted more people, but they were a mix of nationalities that included locals as well as Filipino helpers.

The Edinburgh site tested not only FDHs but others on compulsory testing notice 

Filipino workers belonging to the pro-government Aguinaldo Group estimated that more than 300 people had come to get tested at the Chater Garden and Edinburgh sites, based on the number of water bottles they had given away to those who lined up for the tests.

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Jenny, a member of the group, said people came in trickles, probably because many had themselves tested at community testing centers near where they live.

But it could also be because the second round lasted for 16 days, giving FDHs more time to comply with the order.

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Another reason could be an increase in the number of those who were exempt from the testing order because they had two jabs of a coronavirus vaccine at least 14 days before the end of the notice period, or on May 16.

Free bottled water was handed out to those who showed up for the test

The compulsory testing comes with a threat of a $5,000 fixed fine for those who do not comply with the order.

The initial round of testing was ordered from May 1 to 9 amid fears of a spread of the more infections coronavirus variant, after a Filipina domestic helper who had not left since 2019 was found to carry the strain.

It later turned out that she had caught the South African variant indirectly from an Indian man who was found infected days after he left his hotel quarantine, and had gone to several places in the city.

On May 11, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that a second round of compulsory testing of FDHs would be held from May 15 to 30. But at the same time, she announced that a plan to compel FDHs to get vaccinated against Covid-19 had been suspended.

This was after three Filipina DHs were found infected in the initial round. The first two were linked to the Indian returnee, while a third tested positive days after she ended her hotel quarantine. Subsequent tests showed she carried antibodies, suggesting an old infection.

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