‘Let helpers do pre-quarantine in home countries’

The DAB on Sunday suggested that incoming foreign domestic helpers should quarantine themselves at their home countries before coming to Hong Kong in order to avoid triggering the flight suspension mechanism.

Currently, health authorities will stop an airline from flying from a specific destination for a week if three or more passengers on the same flight test positive for Covid-19 on arrival, or if it violates other virus control measures.

Legislator Edward Leung from the party said it’s estimated that some 10,000 helpers are waiting to come to Hong Kong and if flights are suspended from time to time it may take up to two years for all of them to arrive in the territory.

He suggested the workers can quarantine at hotels in their home countries for 14 days first before undergoing another seven-day quarantine when they arrive in Hong Kong, saying it could greatly reduce the chance of the mechanism being triggered.

Employers will need to pay additional fees to cover the costs of overseas testing, accommodation and food, he added, if not by the government.

Leung noted Singapore had also introduced a similar arrangement last year, though it was an industry-led initiative.

He believed this is a better idea than relaxing the flight suspension mechanism itself, as it’s still crucial in guarding against the importation of Covid-19.

“In that way we don’t need to make big changes to the mechanism. This will be easier to implement. If we have to change the mechanism, it will take a lot of time to lobby the government officials and also the Legislative Council members,” the legislator told reporters in a virtual press conference.

“Therefore, the best way is to do something extra, which is to have them quarantined in their countries before coming to Hong Kong,” Leung continued.

However, the founding chairman of the Hong Kong Employment Agents Association John Lam said the government should review if the mechanism should be scrapped, saying it greatly impacts the agencies’ businesses and employers’ plans.