Govt may offer more quarantine places for helpers

Labour and Welfare Secretary Law Chi-kwong said the government may make available more quarantine facilities for newly arrived foreign domestic helpers when the time is ripe.

Employers and agencies have complained that they’ve been struggling to find space for helpers to complete their 21-day quarantine.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion on Friday, the labour chief said an average of 45 helpers arrived each day this month.

The daily quota at the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre stands at 50, and the total number of units there will be raised from 800 to 1,000 from next Friday.

Law also said the risk of helpers bringing in Covid-19 has dropped, clearing the way for more arrivals.

But he rejected the idea of linking quarantine places to the vetting of helpers’ visas.

“We have thought of these measures, but they might cause even more delays and result in fewer helpers coming… These procedures are very complicated. Some people may wait for a visa for a month or two, but others may wait for nine months. And using this method may cause even more grievances,” Law said.

“Drawing lots will complicate the process as well, as the question of when helpers can arrive has nothing to do with a lottery.”

The secretary said the government has to tread carefully with its policies especially after a domestic helper from Indonesia tested positive with the virus this week after completing her quarantine.

Employers and agencies representatives at the discussion welcomed the idea of more quarantine units, but urged the government to improve the booking system.

Teresa Liu from the Association of Hong Kong Manpower Agencies said the allocation of quarantine places and vetting of helpers’ visas should be considered together.

“Let the maids come according to their visa issue date, because some of their visas [were] already issued early of this year,” she said.

Liu said both employers and agencies have been hit by the current quarantine arrangements.