Hong Kong’s tough Covid-19 restrictions have led to a severe shortage of foreign domestic helpers – made stricter by Wednesday’s announcement of a temporary suspension of flights from the Philippines. Helpers who leave permanently are not being replaced quickly enough, pushing up salaries and leading to what amounts to bidding wars among potential employers. Those who go home for holidays are inevitably caught up in concern about the more transmissible Omicron variant, requiring them to undergo the longest quarantine stays on return. Pressure on places for isolation is building and the most viable solution would seem to be for authorities to make more rooms available that are affordable to employers. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong estimates there are 50,000 fewer helpers now than when the pandemic began. Three quarantine hotels have been designated for helpers. With Omicron having been detected in both the Philippines and Indonesia, Hong Kong requires 21 days of isolation. There is believed to be a backlog of 4,000 helpers waiting overseas with delays of up to a year. Hong Kong vows action over helper quarantine room booking woes Helpers from overseas make a major economic contribution to the city. They relieve families of care for children and the elderly, enabling households to earn a higher income that in turn increases financial well-being. That allows for greater investment in property and education opportunities and time for recreation, raising quality of life. One recent study also determined a couple who hired a helper to take care of their baby were also more likely to have a second child, a plus for a city with a fast-ageing population and falling birth rate. One employers’ group estimates that due to the shortage of supply and increased salaries and cost of quarantining, at least 10,000 families had put aside thoughts of hiring a helper. A spike in the number of imported infections with the Omicron and Delta variants is bound to lead to even tighter oversight of arrivals. It is inevitable given Hong Kong’s zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus and necessary to prevent community outbreaks such as that at a restaurant in Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong. Unless there is a change of policy, strictly enforced quarantining of arrivals to the city is the best approach and authorities should ensure enough rooms are available.