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Migrant leader brushes aside call for FDWs to stay at home

09 January 2022

 By Daisy CL Mandap 

Chater Road on Sunday remained busy though not as packed

The leader of one of the biggest migrant groups in Hong Kong has rebuffed renewed calls from the Labour Department for foreign domestic workers to stay at home on their rest days due to the spread of the Omicron variant in the community.

Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said today, Jan 9, that migrant workers need their only day off in the week to relax and get away from work pressure.

Kailangan ng holiday. Kailangan lang sundin ang mga (health) protocol, pero hindi dapat maghigpit at gawing dahilan para hindi palabasin ang mga workers,” she said.

(We need our holiday. We just have to follow health protocols, but there is be no reason why migrant workers should be prevented from going out).

As she spoke, hundreds of FDWs, mostly Filipinos, went about their usual business on Chater Road and nearby Statue Square, as well as Edinburgh Place in Central. However, many nooks where workers would often hang out in large numbers had been fenced off or barricaded.

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Once in a while, police officers accompanied by staff of some government departments would pass by to check on workers grouped together, but did not do more than remind some of them to stay in groups of four, and keep their distance from each other.

Roving officers tell Chater habitues to follow social distancing rules

A few workers could be seen with their masks lowered down to their chin, but they were either ignored by the police, or were just lucky to have escaped their attention.

However, migrant leaders who went about checking on their members and reminding them to comply with the social distancing rules reported seeing the police telling some workers not to eat together in public, as this would entail them taking them off their masks, which is risky.


In the morning, those who were squatting on the underpass connecting Chater Road to City Hall were reportedly told to move to other places. However, by the afternoon, the pedestrian walkway was turned into one big hawkers’ market, with both sellers and buyers clogging the passageway.

But Pelaez said workers who hang out in the area are generally well-behaved and mindful of the anti-gathering rules issued by the government.


Their leaders also keep a watchful eye on them, well aware that violators could be told outright to pay a fixed penalty of $5,000 each, or risk being prosecuted.

Pelaez said there is no evidence suggesting that hanging out with their friends in open public spaces have caused FDWs to spread the coronavirus among themselves.


Kahit sa kanilang studies, hindi naman nakita na sa tambayan nakukuha ang impeksyon. Doon din sa workplace nila nakukuha lagi,” she said. (Even the experts’ studies show that workers do not get infected in places where they hang out. They usually get it in their workplaces).

Balladares-Pelaez says workers are often infected at their workplaces

She was referring to the Indonesian domestic worker who appears to have spread the virus to three fellow helpers during church services, but was herself infected by her employer’s friend who visited them in their house.

Pelaez said she understood that the house guest should not be blamed for the cross-infection  as she was herself infected by her flight-attendant daughter, but the same thing should apply to migrant workers.


Wala namang may gusto nun,” she said. (Nobody wanted that to happen).

If restrictions are to be imposed on workers’ movements, the same should apply to employers, Pelaez said. For a start, they should always be reminded not to invite too many people to their houses while the dine-in ban is imposed, as this poses a high risk to their entire household.

Such an advice would be timely, she said, with the approach of the Lunar New Year holidays.

“Let’s celebrate with just the family to prevent any cross infection,” Pelaez said.

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