The labour minister Law Chi-kwong on Saturday appeared to rule out the possibility of the government using hotels as makeshift quarantine centres for new foreign domestic workers who arrive in the city in the coming months.
Law said the concern was that if policies were rolled out that encouraged a large number of workers to enter the city during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, then there would be huge strain on the government’s anti-pandemic efforts.
“The number of people who have actually came back from the Philippines to Hong Kong in the past one month is only around 1,700, which is a very small number,” he said.
“But if we allow people, and provide such facilitation that directly or indirectly encourages them to come, that number will jump up very quickly.”
He said that two to three flights from Manila each day could bring in about 500 people, so within two weeks that would be 7,000 people.
“That is a very large number, and we would not have sufficient quarantine facilities to house this group of people, just from the Philippines. So, this is the concern,” he said.
There have been calls from employment agencies to use hotels and government facilities, with New People’s Party lawmaker Eunice Yung saying on Friday that more than 12,000 foreign domestic workers are expected to arrive in the city over the next few months.
She had proposed the government subsidise the cost of this arrangement to help employers, as they are worried they will be unable to properly quarantine their helpers within their own flats.
Law acknowledged that it is not ideal for foreign domestic helpers to undergo quarantine in cramped homes, and said the government will provide information for employers and agencies to find hotel accommodation for the workers at bargain prices.