Hotel employees in Hong Kong have been offered a salary boost to join front-of-house operations at venues being used to quarantine coronavirus patients, while more than 200 travel sector workers have applied for positions at government-run isolation facilities. In response to the surge in Covid-19 cases, local authorities have secured 20,000 hotel rooms to act as quarantine units and hired at least 1,000 retired officers from the disciplined services to manage sites under the community isolation facility scheme. Other measures included the construction of makeshift isolation facilities across Hong Kong. With sources having informed the Post that universal compulsory testing for the coronavirus could begin on March 26 and last for nine days, some hotels have already begun to make preparations. The Cordis Hong Kong in Mong Kok, which has about 660 rooms, said on Wednesday that it would be closed to the public from March 14 to June 13 to participate in the community isolation facility scheme. “As always, our highest priority is our duty of care to our guests’ and colleagues’ health, safety and well-being. Rest assured, enhanced and rigorous protocols are in place to protect the communities we serve,” it said in a social media post. Hong Kong confirms record 56,827 cases; ‘500 testing centres planned’ for universal screening A source who worked in the hotel said staff members were informed of the decision on Tuesday night, with employees being offered various incentives to participate in the scheme. Members of staff who chose to work front-of-house during the period would receive double their current salary, while those who chose to perform back-of-house operations would get a 50 per cent pay increase. Any employees who wished to opt out of the scheme would be paid 70 per cent of their current salary, the source added. Government-run community isolation facilities were also looking to recruit staff, with the Security Bureau offering a monthly salary of HK$31,000 (US$3,966) for the position of housekeeping assistant. According to a job advertisement posted on Wednesday, ideal candidates should have at least two years of work experience in the tourism or sports sectors. Additional requirements included the completion of education up to the level of Secondary 5, with all applicants required to be inoculated twice with a Covid-19 vaccine . The advertisement added that successful applicants would be expected “to work irregular hours to provide round-the-work service” for five to six days a week, for a total of 48 hours. “The work shift will be assigned by the government based on operational needs,” it said. According to the Travel Industry Council, which was helping to coordinate applications, about 229 people had applied for positions at government-run community isolation facilities as of 4pm on Thursday. Council chairwoman Gianna Hsu Wong Mei-lun said candidates could apply through eight different associations or send their resumes directly to the Security Bureau. “The council’s role is to tell travel sector workers about the position and encourage them to apply as much as possible,” Hsu said. “While the job has its risks by working in the frontline of the outbreak, people in the industry really need the salary right now.” She added that hotels enrolled in the community isolation facility scheme were also preparing suitable arrangements for employees. “Pay rises are necessary to encourage staff to stay on duty during this outbreak, but of course, there are also options for those who are unable or unwilling to work due to health or personal risks,” the chairwoman said. In January, hotel operator Dorsett Hospitality International said it would raise employee salaries by an average of 3 per cent in 2022, with each member of staff to also receive a monthly allowance of HK$3,000 for helping to perform contracts related to anti-epidemic measures. “I want to say ‘thank you’ for being here with Dorsett in this antivirus fight,” said Winnie Chiu, president of Dorsett Hospitality International, in an internal memo seen by the Post . A source who works at the Dorsett Tsuen Wan Hotel said the venue had stocked up on protective gear for employees to reduce the risk of infection. All members of staff were also required to undergo rapid testing on a daily basis before coming to work, the insider said, adding the hotel had also set up a designated dining area for employees. All of the company’s five hotels had been designated as quarantine sites, with a total capacity of about 2,000 rooms. Among them, Dorsett Tsuen Wan Hotel Hong Kong began providing accommodation as an isolation community facility for Covid-19 patients from February 18. From late February, the first batch of hotels under the government scheme have begun to provide 4,400 rooms as isolation units, including the Dorsett Tsuen Wan Hotel Hong Kong, iclub Ma Tau Wai Hotel and Fortress Hill hotels, as well as the Regal Oriental Hotel in Kowloon City. Regal Hotels Group said it would provide more than 3,400 hotel rooms in batches for mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 patients. The company added that it would support employees with measures such as job training, emotional and psychological counselling, and providing additional allowances. “We are grateful to have our staff who have been tirelessly working hard under the pandemic and touched by their unwavering dedication and heroic commitment to this meaningful cause,” a Regal Hotels spokeswoman said. Why Hongkongers recovering from Covid-19 at home feel helpless, frustrated But Michael Chan Tsz-kit, an organiser with the Catering and Hotel Industries Employees General Union, called on the government to hand out more protective gear to the hospitality workers and offer an additional allowance. “We risk our lives to fight the virus, while the government didn’t equip us with enough weapons for the war,” he said. He noted that some infected residents would quarantine in the hotel without telling authorities or hotel employees, which could put the safety of the latter group at risk. Tourism sector lawmaker Perry Yiu Pak-leung said he believed the tourism and hospitality industries were “doing the best they can” to support operations at isolation facilities. “The hospitality industry has offered some 20,000 rooms to coordinate with the government’s request to be used as isolation facilities,” he said. “Many of them are going to be serviced by their in-house staff and perhaps are making arrangements with their teams in terms of manpower and compensation.” Forty-four hotels have set aside about 12,500 rooms until July 31 as designated quarantine venues for inbound travellers, with the figure accounting for about 14 per cent of the city’s supply, according to data from the Hong Kong Tourism Board.