‘OFWs in Hong Kong should be encouraged, not forced, to get COVID-19 jab’

âOFWs in Hong Kong should be encouraged, not forced, to get COVID-19 jabâ
Migrant workers queue up for COVID-19 testing in the Central district of Hong Kong on May 1, 2021, after the government ordered all foreign domestic workers to get tested after two domestic workers who entered the city from overseas were found to be infected with a more infectious coronavirus variant.
Peter Parks / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The vaccination of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong should be due to their own "informed choice" rather than state compulsion, Sen. Joel Villanueva said Wednesday. 

This comes amid reports that Hong Kong officials plan to make coronavirus vaccination compulsory for all foreign domestic helpers looking to renew their contracts, a move that has been slammed by migrant worker groups there as "discriminatory and unjust." 

Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Raly Tejada has said that vaccination if required should be for all foreign workers and not just the 370,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong, most of whom are Filipino and Indonesian women.

"Even here [in the Philippines], there is no compulsion when it comes to vaccination. But we strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated," Villanueva said in Filipino. 

"It should not be made a requisite for work visa renewal more so if other foreigners in that country are exempted from mandatory vaccination. It is patently discriminatory," he added.

The senator emphasized that educating the public should precede vaccine rollouts, adding that this responsibility falls on the government, regardless of country. 

"There's a thin line between vaccine democracy and class discrimination," he also said.

Hong Kong labor secretary Law Chi-kwong has defended linking domestic worker visas to vaccination, saying helpers can choose to work elsewhere. 

All domestic workers are required to be vaccinated by May 9, according to a report from the South China Morning Post. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Sunday said the plan "smacks of discrimination" and called on officials "not [to] single out any nationality."

Malacañang echoed Locsin's statement on Monday. 

— Bella Perez-Rubio with reports from Agence France-Presse

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