Hong Kong drops mandatory vaccine plan for foreign domestic workers


The Hong Kong government announced on Tuesday it is scrapping its plan of mandatory vaccines for foreign domestic workers after the proposal sparked an outcry of discrimination.

The planned roll out of mandatory inoculations for the 370,000 domestic workers in the city also caused a diplomatic tussle with the Philippines top foreign affairs official.

Hong Kong residents relies on an army of foreign domestic workers to run their households, mostly poorly paid women from the Philippines and Indonesia.

The territory’s health officials announced the mandatory vaccination plan after two domestic workers were found to be infected with one of the more virulent strains of the coronavirus.

They said domestic workers were “high risk” because they often work with the elderly and meet in parks on Sundays — usually their one day off a week.

Those wanting to apply for work visas, or renew their current ones, would need to show they had received two doses.

But on Tuesday city leader Carrie Lam announced a U-turn.

“The government has decided not to request mandatory vaccination when helpers renew their contracts,” she said, adding the decision had been made after meetings with officials from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Philippine foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin had previously warned the initial proposal “smacked of discrimination”.

Labour groups representing domestic workers said they felt they were being singled out, noting that the families they worked for — as well as locals working in environments such as care homes — were not required to get vaccinated.

They also pointed out that wealthier foreign migrants such as the city’s white-collar financial workers were not forced to get vaccines when outbreaks of the coronavirus were traced to their well-heeled districts.

Thanks to strict quarantine measures and economically painful social distancing rules, Hong Kong has kept infections to just under 12,000 cases and 210 deaths.

It has secured ample vaccine doses but the public take-up has been very low.

So far just 16% of the city’s 7.5 million people have received one or more doses, a long way from the 60-70% considered necessary for herd immunity.

Regular polling shows Hong Kongers have some of the lowest support ratings for inoculation in the world. (Source: INQUIRER.net)