PH Consulate to send diplomatic note to HK over mandatory tests, jabs for FDWs

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Consul General Raly Tejada (FILE)

The Philippine Consulate on Saturday said it will send a diplomatic note to the Hong Kong government on the mandatory Covid-19 testing and vaccination of foreign domestic workers (FDWs).

Consul General Raly Tejada told Hong Kong News in a message that they were not directly consulted by the government on the new measure.

“It would have been better if concerned Consulates like the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries of origin were consulted on this matter as it involves the substantive rights of our nationals,” he said.

Tejada’s statement comes after Hong Kong ordered all FDWs in the city to get tested for Covid-19 before May 9. The government also bared plans to require these workers to get vaccinated against the disease before processing their visa applications.

Of the more than 370,000 FDWs in Hong Kong, around 207,000 are from the Philippines.

The Consul General said their office supports Hong Kong’s free and voluntary vaccination scheme but added that Filipinos need not be forced to get inoculated since he is confident that “they will do the right thing.”

The Philippines’ top official in the city also said many non-residents have similar situations and jobs and yet FDWs are being singled out.

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“If vaccination becomes a proviso to work in HK then its application should be non-discriminatory so that there is no feeling among our [FDWs] that they are being singled out,” he said.

Hong Kong required Covid-19 testing for all FDWs after two workers were found to have contracted highly contagious coronavirus strains. Their infections were not epidemiologically linked.

One of these FDWs was found to have a strain carrying an E484K mutation, which medical experts say makes the virus resistant to the current supply of Covid-19 vaccines globally. Her infection source is unknown, which prompted the quarantine of over 1,600 tenants in the residential building she worked in and the mass testing of FDWs.

Migrant worker groups hit the policy and called it discriminatory. In a press conference on Saturday, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body said it will hold a silent protest on Sunday against the Hong Kong government’s policy.

The group is also set to file a complaint before the Equal Opportunities Commission on Monday.

AMCB Spokesperson Eman Villanueva questioned why authorities preemptively ordered all FDWs to get tested when the migrant worker’s infection source could not be traced.

“It’s not even scientific, it’s not substantiated, it is very prejudicial,” he said. “Definitely this response is not going to help them in finding out or at least curbing the spread of the virus.”

Labour minister Law Chi-kwong earlier denied that the decision to test all FDWs was prejudiced as it was based on risk assessment.

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