More OFWs in Hong Kong test positive for COVID-19

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
More OFWs in Hong Kong test positive for COVID-19
A usually busy street in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district is empty on Feb. 21, as the city faces its worst COVID-19 wave to date.

MANILA, Philippines — More overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are testing positive for COVID in Hong Kong as the special administrative region faces the fifth wave of the pandemic.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) yesterday reported that OFWs infected with COVID as of Feb. 21 rose to 60 from 41 the previous day.

Of the 60, DOLE said 49 are asymptomatic and currently staying in community isolation while nine are symptomatic and admitted in hospitals. Two have recovered from the infection.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) is providing assistance, including $200 financial aid to the COVID-positive OFWs.

POLO is also coordinating with the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection and non-government organizations for the immediate admission of those needing hospitalization.

DOLE said that OFWs with existing employment contracts could go back to their job once they have recovered since COVID infection is not a valid ground for termination.

Hong Kong authorities have assured the Philippine government that all Filipinos who contracted COVID-19 would receive medical assistance and would be brought to isolation facilities, Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada said yesterday.

Tejada said all Filipinos needing emergency assistance have been accounted for and assisted. He noted that 61 Filipinos have tested positive for COVID-19 since the fifth pandemic wave hit the Chinese special administrative region.

Half or 31 of them have approached the consulate for assistance, either for hospital admission or access to isolation rooms.

“I’m glad to report just a few minutes ago... the Hong Kong government, through the labor department, assured the consulate that all Filipinos in Hong Kong, most especially of course our hardworking foreign domestic helpers (who) are needing medical attention and isolation, will be treated and taken to an isolation facility if necessary,” he added.

Tejada said only a “small minority” or about three to five Filipino workers were terminated because they tested positive for the virus.

He said the consulate “would hold the employers liable” and those found guilty will face fines and other sanctions.

On Sunday, the consulate warned it will “blacklist” employers who terminated the contracts of Filipino workers after testing positive for COVID-19.

Medical team

Presidential candidate Sen. Manny Pacquiao yesterday said he was eyeing sending a medical team to Hong Kong following a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

“If the Hong Kong government will allow it then we will send a team with a doctor to assist our OFWs there and not only to help them with COVID-19 infection but also with any medical needs,” Pacquiao told reporters.

“It’s only right for the government to show concern for OFWs struggling abroad to help their families. Let’s not forget their huge contributions to our country,” he said, adding that the situation of OFWs in Hong Kong is a cause for worry. – Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero, Neil Jayson Servallos

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