PH agencies call for HK to copy Singapore’s quarantine rules for FDWs

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Foreign domestic helpers flock Central. (File)

A group of recruitment agencies in the Philippines on Wednesday called on the Hong Kong government to pattern its quarantine measures for arriving foreign domestic workers (FDWs) after Singapore’s existing protocols in a bid to prevent Covid-19 cases netted at the airport.

“Following Singapore’s quarantine protocol is what we are suggesting to the officials in Hong Kong especially for the Filipino domestic workers coming to Hong Kong,” said Madolyn Uanang, president of the Society of Hong Kong Accredited Recruitment Agencies of the Philippines (SHARP).

Singapore employs a scheme that depends on the arriving passenger’s 21-day travel history. A seven-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) can be granted in the person’s country of origin, for them to complete the remaining 14 days in an accredited quarantine hotel.

Hong Kong’s quarantine protocols require all 21 days to be spent in a designated facility in the city.

Uanang believes that a week-long quarantine in a hotel based in the FDW’s port of origin lessens the cost of post-arrival accommodations by PHP1,600 (HK$260).

The suggestion came after several Filipino domestic workers tested positive upon arrival in Hong Kong shortly after the ban on flights from Manila in April due to the local Covid-19 situation.

Since the suspension of flights from high-risk areas including the Philippines, around 3,000 FDWs have been stranded and only some 15% were able to fly and push through with their employment, according to Uanang.

“We feel the struggle on both the employer who handles the payment for the ticket and quarantine facility, and the FDWs who have been travelling back and forth from their home province to Manila to process their employment but got delayed,” added Uanang.

“We also feared that some of the FDWs might get the virus because of waiting too long to be able to fly out. They really need the job, especially now that we are amid the pandemic,” she added.

Since the announcement of the opening of a government-managed quarantine facility in Penny’s Bay in Lantau Island, rooms have been fully booked minutes after a government website just opened for reservations there last Tuesday.

“The application approval is continuous for Filipinos especially that employers prefer Filipino FDWs and Hong Kong is a favored destination because of the protection and welfare given to the Filipino domestic workers,” said Uanang.

Filipinos bound for overseas work may also avail of a ‘green lane’ to fast track the process of getting an International Certificate of Vaccination from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ). The lane was jointly implemented by the BOQ and the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment.