HK warns it will ban employers from hiring domestic workers if not given isolation quarters

Jan Yumul, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2020 01:28 AM | Updated as of Mar 22 2020 01:42 PM

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HONG KONG - Employers who fail to provide their own quarantine facilities or quarters for their arriving foreign domestic workers risk having their hired help and their future applications rejected by authorities, Hong Kong warned on Saturday.

In a press conference, Labor Secretary Law Chi-kwong stressed Hong Kong "should not and will not provide" quarantine places for foreign domestic workers, amid the rise of novel coronavirus cases worldwide.

"If employers don't allow their workers to undergo quarantine at home or provide a place of accommodation, then there would be no choice but to repatriate the workers," Law said in Chinese.

Mincing no words, Law also said employment agencies and their intermediaries would face sanctions if they fail to act accordingly. 

Asked what he thought of the official's warning, Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Raly Tejada said employers and agencies "need to be held accountable as they're responsible for the workers' accommodations."

"Blacklisting is certainly an option for those who will not live up to this basic responsibility," Tejada told ABS-CBN News. 

"This is an option when there is contract violation, especially by erring agencies or employers. I am glad that the HK Government understands the gravity of the situation," he added.

Hong Kong says an average of 550 foreign domestic workers arrive in the special administrative region daily, 100 of whom are under new contracts. Government also estimates around 7,700 domestic workers will arrive in the city in 14 days.

Authorities have implemented measures relaxing the workers' visa restrictions while they look for jobs in the Chinese territory. It also extended their job contracts amid heightened international travel restrictions elsewhere.

Hong Kong earlier enforced the compulsory home quarantine for all travelers entering the city -- except from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan -- to avoid stressing its healthcare system with an influx of coronavirus patients. 

Anyone found guilty of violating the travel restriction will be slapped a fine of up to HK$25,000 (P150,000), and face 6 months in jail.

Since the compulsory quarantine came into effect, Law reported that at least two domestic workers were sent to isolation centers since no regular procedure could be made for them. Arrangements are now being made to send them for home quarantine. 

Hong Kong has 273 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 5 OFWs. Four people have died in the city due to the disease.

There are more than 400,000 foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Around 200,000 of them are from the Philippines and Indonesia.