Hong Kong reopened its borders to foreign domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines On Monday, but fewer than 20 per day can enter the city due to the limited number of quarantine hotel rooms.
Employer groups said it was extremely difficult to secure a hotel room for their maids or helpers for the 21-day quarantine period. They said it was ridiculous that only a few hundred domestic workers could arrive in Hong Kong in the coming weeks, while at least 6,000 to 7,000 were waiting to fly in.
Labor rights groups said it was discriminatory that domestic workers were required to stay in one designated hotel, while all other incoming travelers could choose from more than 30 hotels. They said such an arrangement made people think domestic workers were a high-risk group.
Hong Kong has had rising demands for domestic workers for several years. Since last year, the supply of workers has decreased as many who went home for holidays could not return due to tough quarantine requirements.
At the end of last year, the number of domestic workers fell by 25,436 to 373,884 from 399,320 a year ago, according to the Immigration Department.
After some employer groups called for help from consulates general of the Philippines and Indonesia and the Hong Kong government, the two countries and Hong Kong reached an agreement last week that would allow vaccinated domestic workers to enter the city from Monday.
However, only 409 rooms were initially available at the Silka Tsuen Wan Hotel. That means in the coming weeks, fewer than 20 domestic workers per day could arrive in Hong Kong.
The compulsory 21-night stay at the quarantine hotel will cost HK$16,800, more than 3.5 times the minimum monthly wage for a maid. Employers will pay the bill. The charge is said to be 78% higher than the normal level.
Chan said at least two more hotels should be added to the scheme. He also said the quarantine expenses, plus other fees of about HK$20,000, were too much for many families.
Ho Pak-leung, a clinical associate professor at the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, said it was necessary to control the number of hotel rooms for newly arrived domestic workers as some had been found to be infected after the 21-day quarantine period.
Ho urged the government to cap the quarantine hotel occupancy rate at 75%.
Meanwhile, labor rights groups criticized the government’s decision to mandate domestic workers entering Hong Kong to quarantine in designated hotels.