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HK not ready to lift ban on vaccinated travelers from A1 countries

21 July 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap

The news comes as a blow to the thousands of Filipino domestic workers stranded in Manila

Travelers from eight countries designated by Hong Kong as A1 or “extremely high risk” may kiss away their hopes of coming here – not soon, anyway.

Latest reports say Chief Executive Carrie Lam is not keen on the idea, and wants to focus instead on reopening Hong Kong’s borders with the mainland.

The news comes as a blow to many whose hopes were raised recently by reports that Hong Kong was planning to lift the ban partially, by allowing those who have been fully vaccinated to come in to reunite with family members or take up much-needed jobs.


Among them are the thousands of Filipino domestic workers who have been stranded in Manila while waiting for Hong Kong to lift the ban it imposed starting Apr 20 on all passenger flights from the Philippines.

Nakakalungkot naman po, lahat kami umaasa na,” said M.R., on being told about the latest development. (It’s so saddening, all of us had been looking forward to leaving).

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She said she had been waiting for eight months to be deployed to Hong Kong, from the time she left her hometown in Masbate for Manila so she could start working on getting her papers ready. By the time the flight ban was announced she already had an employer waiting for her here.

M.R. said she considers herself lucky as she could live with relatives in Caloocan City while waiting for the ban to be lifted.

Kawawa po yung mga kasamahan ko na transient, mga galing pa ng probinsiya at sobrang laki na ang gastos nila. Araw-araw Php175 ang bayad nila para sa tirahan nila,” she said (I pity my fellow workers who are transient boarders. They came from different provinces and have already spent a lot of money. They pay Php175 a day for their lodging alone).

Another, M.G., was more philosophical about the unfortunate turn of events.


Wala na tayong magagawa kundi maghintay na lang,” she said. “Mag pray na lang na mag ok na sana. (There’s nothing we can do but wait some more. We should just pray that things will turn out ok soon).

But she could not help but add: “Kawawa naman kami. Ang dami ng stranded mula noong April pa.” (Woe to us. So many people have been stranded as early as April).


Over the past four months that no word had come out from Hong Kong about when flights from Manila would be allowed to resume, many of the workers had been pouring out their grief on social media.

Mostly, they said they had already run out of money trying to stick it out in Manila so they could leave as soon as Hong Kong gives the go-ahead. Apart from paying for their board and lodging, they also had to pay for updating their medical check-up result. 

Many admitted to borrowing money from loan sharks, and were scared that the interest charged them, which was hefty to begin with, had been compounding each month that they remain stuck in the Philippines.

At least one permanent resident who just went for a short vacation in Manila is also among those desperate to return to Hong Kong. According to her husband, T.S. was set to leave for Hong Kong exactly on the day the ban was imposed.

Being away from her family and work in Hong Kong for more than three months has weighed heavily on T.S.’ mind that she cannot help but feel angry that no one seems to care that she is unable to go home.

Congen Tejada has appealed to HK officials to take the Philippines out of the A1 category 

In an earlier interview, Consul General Raly Tejada, told The SUN that he had been trying to ask for a meeting with Hong Kong officials so he could appeal for the lifting of the ban on the Philippines, which has a comparatively more stable Covid-19 situation than the other countries in the A1 category.

That chance came two weeks ago, during the resumption of the technical working group meeting between the Consulate and representatives of Hong Kong's Labour and Immigration Departments.

ConGen Tejada said the Consulate asked the Hong Kong officials to reexamine the Philippines’ classification as A1 designated place, given the recent drop in the country’s daily infection tally, and the big number of Filipinos getting vaccinated each day.

“We also asked them to allow our residents and workers to come back given their need to work as well as the demand for their services,” he added.

In response, the Hong Kong officials said they recognized the importance of the issue and agreed that residents and workers need to come back.

However, no definite date was given as to when this might happen.

Regardless, the head of an employment agencies’ group went ahead and said that FDWs with approved work visas could leave as early as next month once they get fully vaccinated, but did not cite any source for this fearless forecast.

Apart from the Philippines, the other countries in the A1 category are Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

With the recent surge in cases in many of these countries, especially the UK and Indonesia which both saw their daily infection tally soar past 50,000 over the weekend; and India which remains severely blighted by the Delta variant, it is not likely that the ban will be lifted anytime soon.

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