The government’s controversial order that all Hong Kong foreign domestic workers must be tested for the coronavirus has yielded no new cases so far, the Food and Health Bureau announced on Sunday evening.

Over the weekend, thousands of domestic workers queued for hours on their day off to undergo a Covid-19 test.

Migrant workers queue up for Covid-19 testing in the Central district of Hong Kong on May 1, 2021. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP.

As of 6pm on Sunday, around 54,000 of the 113,000 samples collected over the weekend had been tested, with no new infections discovered. More than 52,000 samples had been collected from foreign domestic workers in all.

The city’s 370,000 foreign domestic workers were ordered to be tested for the virus by May 9 on Friday, after one worker was found carrying two different mutant strains.

“For local cases with unknown sources of infection involving mutant strains, the government has to be decisive in adopting swiftly stringent testing and quarantine measures, with an aim [of] cutting the transmission chains as soon as possible,” a Food and Health Bureau spokesperson said on Sunday. “Otherwise, the whole society will have to bear significant consequences when there is a major outbreak.”

People found to have violated a compulsory testing order face a fine of HK$5,000 and an additional testing order. Those who fail to observe a second order face a fine of up to HK$25,000 and six months imprisonment.

‘Get tested for racism’

The compulsory testing order drew strong criticism from rights groups over the weekend, who decried the government’s measures as “racist.”

“‘If migrant domestic workers are being asked to submit themselves to get tested for Covid-19, we think the Hong Kong government authorities should also submit themselves to get tested for racism,” a spokesperson for a coalition of 12 foreign domestic worker groups, the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body, said in a statement on Sunday.

Calls from the migrants’ group for better protection of migrants’ rights. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

“This decision to mandate testing for the 370,000 migrant domestic workers simply because of their job is absurd and the latest in a string of discriminatory policies of the government,” the statement continued.

The spokesperson also referred to a recent cluster of cases involving a gym popular among the city’s expats, accusing the government of implementing a double standard: “The Hong Kong government did not test every single person in Hong Kong with a gym membership with the recent outbreaks in gyms; instead they used contact tracing to identify who needed testing.”

The government has been accused of discriminatory comments and policies towards the city’s foreign domestic workers and ethnic minorities during the pandemic. A pro-Beijing lawmaker has asked the government to consider “locking up” the city’s domestic workers on their days off to curb local infections.

Hong Kong’s equality watchdog, the Equal Opportunities Commission, told Citizen News that the government’s move was not discriminatory as it was “reasonably necessary for the purpose of protecting public health,” according to reporter Alvin Lum.

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.