Hong Kong plan to force Covid vaccines on foreign domestic workers sparks alarm | Hong Kong | The Guardian
Hong Kong plan to force Covid vaccines on foreign domestic workers sparks alarm. Authorities accused of ‘blackmailing’ workers over plan to make vaccine a condition of getting a job
Hong Kong’s government has sparked discrimination concerns over plans to force hundreds of thousands of foreign domestic workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or face losing their job. Authorities have embarked on mass mandatory testing of the city’s 370,000 domestic workers after a more infectious strain was detected in the community, and flagged plans for compulsory vaccinations.Under the measures, workers would need to be vaccinated before their contracts could be renewed, and any incoming worker would be required to have the vaccination to enter Hong Kong.
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The vast majority of Hong Kong’s domestic workers are migrant workers, primarily from the Philippines and Indonesia, and no other foreign workforce has been singled out for mandatory vaccines, drawing criticism from Philippines officials. The country’s foreign affairs secretary, Teddy Locsin Jr, praised Hong Kong’s provision of free vaccines to domestic workers, but said singling them out to make it mandatory “smacks of discrimination”.“If it is a special favour, it is unfair to other nationalities. Hong Kong can do better than that,” he said.Eman Villanueva, spokesperson for the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said the enforced testing and proposed vaccinations were “discrimination and social exclusion of domestic workers at its worst”, and accused the government of “blackmailing” workers by tying vaccines to contracts.“They did not respond like this when there were outbreaks in several fitness gyms and dance studios, restaurants, banks, etc,” he said in an opinion piece for Stand News. “It’s because to them we are easy targets and scapegoats. It’s because they know we don’t have much choice but to follow their discriminatory, illogical, and unreasonable impositions or end up jobless.”
The comments by Locsin echoed those by the Philippines consul general, Raly Tejada, who said his office had been very supportive of Hong Kong’s free vaccine programme, but if it was to become mandatory for work contracts then it should be non-discriminatory and include “other non-resident workers who are similarly situated so that there is no feeling of being singled out”.In explaining the new rules, Hong Kong’s minister for labour, Dr Law Chi-kwong, said the “high risk group” mainly spent their holidays with friends, which could lead to cross-family infections. The migrant workers, who usually travel alone to Hong Kong, have one day off a week and frequently gather in public places to socialise away from the home where they work.On Sunday the Hong Kong government said the labour department was “working out the relevant details” on mandatory vaccines. It said its mandatory testing programme did not discriminate based on race or status, but did not address accusations that its plans for mandatory vaccines were.It appealed to all workers to get their vaccines voluntarily “to protect their own health and that of their employers’ family and others, and to avoid being subject to any regular testing in the future”.
It also urged employers to encourage their workers and to give them sufficient rest after getting vaccinated. Those who could not be vaccinated for health reasons could get an exemption, it added.On Sunday health authorities reported the second consecutive day of no community transmission cases detected. There had been about 20 in the past two weeks.