The number of Filipinos in Hong Kong who contracted the COVID-19 has climbed to 221, according to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier directed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to spearhead the repatriation of OFWs who were fired by their employers after testing positive for COVID. There is no update yet, though, on this order.
POLO-Hong Kong Labor Attache Melchor Dizon said that out of the 221 OFWs, 43 had recovered while others remained in hospitals, with their employers, in government quarantine facilities, non-government organization (NGO) facilities, or hotels.
Those still in the houses of their employers and in boarding houses are waiting for the call of Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection so they can be transported to a quarantine site.
“Out of these 221 OFWs, 43 recovered, 95 are with their employers, 22 in government quarantine facilities, 22 in NGO facilities, 23 in boarding houses, six in hotels, and eight in hospitals,” he said.
There were reports that some employers terminated Filipino domestic helpers who have tested positive for the virus.
Dizon said three domestic workers in Hong Kong who were terminated after they contracted the virus were already rehired by their employers.
He assured that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office was ready to assist Filipino workers who will be terminated by their employers because they are COVID-19 positive. He added that the Hong Kong government has also vowed to assist them and has warned employers against terminating Filipino workers.
Dizon said Hong Kong had zero reported COVID-19 cases during the early part of January. However, in the same month, cases suddenly climbed to 100.
From 6,000 cases during early February, cases rapidly increased to around 55,000 now.
To combat the upsurge of COVID-19 cases, the Hong Kong government strictly implemented social distancing and temporarily banned social gatherings. They also required vaccine passes in establishments such as gyms and restaurants, according to Dizon.
To help the OFWs affected by the COVID surge and those who got infected, Dizon said that the agency will provide food assistance, hygiene kits, power banks, and $200 (over P10,000) and financial aid upon their recovery.
Earlier on, the head of the Senate labor committee sought more aid for COVID-infected overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong and urged the government to send a fully-staffed Navy ship to accommodate Filipinos turned away from overwhelmed Hong Kong hospitals.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, citing the remittances of OFWs totalling P162 billion, urged that the 200,000-strong community of OFWs in Hong Kong receive bigger help from their homeland.
At the same time, Villanueva said if a Navy ship could be sent as a fully-staffed floating hospital to accommodate Filipinos turned away from overwhelmed Hong Kong hospitals, “then it would be of great help.”
“[There are just] two or three sailing days from Manila, [and there are] AFP personnel and equipment available,” he said.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development, said any aid by the Philippine government should be cobbled together with the remittances record of Filipinos from Hong Kong in mind.
He said initial moves by the government to help Filipinos struck with COVID-19 in the China-supervised territory, such as $200 in financial aid and repatriation flights as ordered by President Duterte, are steps in the right direction.
The planes, Villanueva pointed out, could bring whatever food and medicine that Filipinos in Hong Kong will need.