Hong Kong halted its plan to make the injection of COVID-19 vaccines mandatory to foreign domestic workers after human rights groups complained that it was a form of discrimination.
According to a Reuters report, Hong Kong authorities have ordered all foreign domestic helpers to be tested for COVID-19 before May 9.
The order was made after a domestic helper from the Philippines was found to be positive for the more contagious variant of the virus.
A helper must also have been vaccinated before their contract can be renewed.
But Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday that they had suspended the law on compulsory vaccination after labor groups and even some officials in the Philippines complained.
“I have asked the secretary for labor to review the whole policy, and to consult advisers and consulates for the countries where domestic workers primarily come from as to whether compulsory vaccinations can be done,” said Lam.
Hong Kong halts mandatory COVID-19 vaccination plan on foreign domestic workers
But he insisted that their order is not discriminatory and they still plan to complete the mandatory testing of all domestic workers on May 9.
Female domestic workers, mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka, usually live with the employers.
Dolores Balladares, the chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, hailed the suspension of the mandatory vaccination directive for domestic helpers.
“We welcome the suspension of mandatory vaccines, but we are calling for scrapping the mandatory testing and vaccine policy entirely, as it punishes and criminalizes domestic workers,” said Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We are in favor of testing and vaccination on a voluntary basis. But singling us out and making it mandatory is discriminatory and leads to further stigmatization,” she added.
Earlier, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told TeleRadyo that the Philippines can do nothing if the Hong Kong government requires mandatory vaccine and swab testing for domestic workers.
“Kung ‘yun ang patakaran ng Hong Kong, hindi natin makukuwestiyon. Siyempre they have to consider their own interest.”
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