‘Shorter quarantine may ease helper shortage soon’

The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Law Chi-kwong, said on Sunday that the severe shortage of foreign domestic helpers may ease next month, when more of them can come to Hong Kong after the quarantine period is shortened from 21 days to 14.

Writing in his blog on Sunday, Law said Hong Kong had in December increased quarantine facilities for helpers, but then the Omicron variant of Covid-19 started raging across the globe with cases in the Philippines skyrocketed – prompting the SAR government to ban all flights from the country.

The labour chief noted there was a recent drop in number of confirmed cases in the Philippines, but it’s uncertain whether the trend will sustain long enough for cases to reach a level low enough for flights to resume.

The government had said the ban on flights from eight countries, including the Philippines, will continue at least until February 18.

Law also said the pandemic situation in Indonesia is deteriorating too, although helpers can still fly in.

But he said with an additional 491 hotel rooms set aside for helpers, and shorter quarantine starting from February 5, the number of helpers who can enter Hong Kong at any specific period of time will go up by 50 percent.

He added, though, the SAR must be careful in preventing imported cases.

“It can be imagined that tens of thousands of families in Hong Kong are having difficulty in taking care of their family members without the support from foreign domestic helpers. But to avoid overwhelming the public healthcare system, we have to be careful in preventing imported cases,” he said.

He added vaccination rate has to increase significantly for the government to gradually relax anti-epidemic measures.