Pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat has urged Hong Kong’s government to consider a “lockdown order” for foreign domestic workers on their day off, because of what she called repeated breaches of Covid-19 social distancing measures.

The DAB Party legislator told local media on Saturday that domestic workers gathered in groups in public places such as footbridges despite the fourth wave of coronavirus infections in the city. Currently, Hong Kong restricts public gatherings to two people, with violators facing a fixed penalty of HK$5,000.

Elizabeth Quat. File photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

Quat pointed to domestic workers who brought tents to Tamar Park in Admiralty on Christmas Day. The crowd of over 100 people were seen chatting, singing and eating on the lawn, some without a mask.

No staff from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department were present to enforce the restrictions, the lawmaker said, adding that violations of Covid-19 measures by domestic workers were “getting out of control.”

People set up tents in Tamar Park during Christmas holiday. Photo: NowTV screenshot.

She criticised the government for failing effectively to curb the spread of the virus, and urged the Food and Health Bureau and the Labour and Welfare Bureau immediately to study the feasibility of barring domestic workers from leaving their employers’ homes on days off.

Eni Lestari, chair of the International Migrants Alliance, told HKFP that Quat’s comments were discriminatory, inconsiderate and very unfair. “That kind of statement is very dangerous, as it will fan the anxieties of the Hong Kong people… blaming us for causing all this chaos and accusing us of potentially spreading Covid-19.”

Migrant worker activist Eni Lestari. File Photo: Dan Garrett.

Lestari said that the government has repeatedly failed to provide enough space for live-in domestic workers to convene on Sundays. “The very fact that we are also being denied protection and any relief during Covid-19 by the government is actually why many of us are being forced into over-crowded situations.”

Penalty tickets

On Saturday, the Labour Department told domestic workers to avoid social activities on their rest days and urged them to stay at home as far as possible. “We also encourage employers and foreign domestic helpers to discuss rest day arrangements, so as to minimise the health risk of participating in social activities.”

Four Labour Department officers surround two domestic workers, informing them of the Covid-19 ban on gatherings of more than two. Photo: GovHK.

The department said employers must not compel their helpers to work on a rest day, which is a breach of the Employment Ordinance.

In a cross-department operation on Sunday, the government said it issued 43 penalty tickets for violating rules on gatherings and mask-wearing.

Labour Department staffers hold a signage remind domestic workers that it is compulsory to wear a face mask in public areas. Photo: GovHK.

Some photos shared by the government showed groups of up to four officers approaching domestic workers who were already sat in pairs.

Hong Kong reported 61 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday, pushing its infection tally to 8,671 with 141 deaths.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.