Hong Kong government backtracks policy requiring Covid-19 vaccine for foreign domestic workers

  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the policy was “risk-based and does not involve racial discrimination”
  • Diplomats from the Philippines said if the rule applied to helpers, it should also apply to all non-resident foreigners

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Foreign domestic helpers petition against new rules mandating blanket Covid-19 vaccinations. Photo: SCMP/ Xiaomei Chen

Hong Kong’s leader has stopped a tough new policy that told all foreign domestic workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, or their contracts would not be renewed.

The policy caused diplomatic protests and accusations of discrimination.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also said health authorities would review whether residents living in the same block where local Covid-19 cases involving mutated strains were found would be able to shorten the 21-day quarantine time if they had taken the two shots needed for each vaccine.

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Speaking before her weekly Executive Council meeting yesterday, Lam said the government still planned to complete its mandatory Covid-19 testing programme for all domestic helpers by this Sunday.

Lam said the city had never forced people to have vaccinations before, so she had asked the secretary for labour to look at the idea again, and talk to advisers and consulates from the countries where domestic workers mostly come from.

“There’s no decided or finalised plan yet,” Lam said, adding the public should look at the matter objectively.

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Lam also defended the decision to demand that all of the city’s 370,000 domestic helpers get tested before May 9, saying it is “risk-based and does not involve racial discrimination”.

She explained that two of the four cases that had the mutated viruses involved domestic helpers, and the government needed to deal with the risk.

In response, Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada told SCMP last Saturday the city should not make vaccines mandatory, arguing that if the new rules applied to helpers, it should apply to all non-resident foreign workers. Philippines foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, meanwhile, said the move “smacked of discrimination”.

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