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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.