“From the perspective of anti-epidemic, foreign domestic workers are a high-risk group,” Law Chi-kwong, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labour and Welfare, said as the measures were announced on Friday. According to the official, migrants “often have gatherings with their friends during their days off,” which increases the risk of transmission.
Under the order, around 370,000 foreign domestic workers in the city must be tested for Covid-19 before May 9. They also won’t be able to obtain visas without a coronavirus jab when it comes to renewing their contracts.
The move comes after a 39-year-old migrant was confirmed to be carrying the so-called South African Covid variant on Thursday. The woman, who didn’t have any recent travel history, was the first reported locally-transmitted case of the mutant strain. The discovery prompted the quarantine of hundreds of residents at her apartment block residence.
Hong Kong’s Health Minister, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, defended the mandatory testing and vaccination by pointing out that “the coronavirus variants have a higher transmissibility and the sources of infections of those cases are unknown.”
However, the city’s foreign workers see things differently, with one, named in local media as Sringatin, saying that migrants have already “suffered greatly” during the pandemic and decrying the order as “stigmatizing and discriminating.”
“One person infected with a variant of Covid-19 does not mean that everyone is infected and will spread it,” she pointed out to the Hong Kong Free Press newspaper.
Another, Eni Lestari, insisted that the Hong Kong government “unfairly blames” foreign workers for spreading the virus. The authorities are “fanning the negative sentiment against migrant domestic workers. This must be stopped and corrected,” she said.
Hong Kong registered four new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Friday. The overall number of infections in the region has reached 11,774 to date in the pandemic, with 209 fatalities.