The word “loophole” is being voiced again in Hong Kong as another cluster of Covid-19 infections causes concern, this time involving foreign domestic helpers and their employers. So serious is the incident that the government has decided to provide free testing for the city’s more than 400,000 maids from tomorrow until the end of January. It is not the first incident of its kind since the pandemic began, but such places would seem to have been given insufficient attention by authorities trying to curb the spread of the disease. Dance clubs and halls, homes for the aged and those with special needs, construction sites and people arriving from overseas have been behind outbreaks, seemingly preventable had the government realised the risks and taken proactive measures. More than a dozen cases have been linked to a boarding house in Tai Po where helpers lived or visited friends. But authorities should have been alert after a similar number in dormitories operated by employment agencies were infected in August at the height of the third wave of Covid-19. It is unclear whether all such places were identified and inspected to ensure social distancing and hygiene requirements were being followed. Also worrying is that unknown numbers of helpers live illegally in boarding houses, despite the government mandating they stay in employers’ homes. The latest outbreak has been followed by a now familiar pattern of action; identifying those who came into contact with those infected, locating them for testing and quarantining. An order has been made for all who visited the boarding house for two hours or more from November 15 to December 15 to have a compulsory test or face punishment. The problem is that no comprehensive list of names exists and there are bound to be those unwilling to come forward for fear of inconveniencing employers or losing their jobs. No single person or part of the government can be blamed for perceived failings; it is a matter of collective responsibility for compliance, inspection and enforcement in all matters relating to Covid-19. Duties are split between a number of departments. There has to be a high level of cooperation and coordination to ensure preventive measures are effective and properly enforced. If the Tai Po outbreak is the result of a failure, the consequences could be serious as the domestic duties of helpers often include caring for the elderly, sick and young, all at-risk groups for the disease. The mass-testing decision is a welcome and necessary gesture, for helpers, employers and their families alike. But the Tai Po cluster and others behind the fourth wave of the coronavirus once more highlight the government’s failure to implement a comprehensive strategy to prevent outbreaks.