Helper virus testing explained

It is necessary to mandate all foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) to receive testing for COVID-19 to completely cut any possible transmission chains in the community.   The Labour & Welfare Bureau made the statement today in response to the community's concerns over the requirement for FDHs to receive compulsory testing and the vaccination arrangement.    It noted that there have been recent incidents of helpers confirmed infected with the N501Y mutant strain of COVID-19 whose source of infection was unknown, which indicated there may already be silent transmission chains of the mutant strain in the community.   The bureau said compulsory testing is an important risk-based measure adopted by health authorities in view of the pandemic's evolving situation and is supported by public health experts.   The FDH population in Hong Kong is at about 370,000. Their job mainly involves taking care of family members, including the elderly and children.   If a helper is infected with the virus, the employer's family members may be infected. In addition, as FDHs have regular social gatherings, coupled with the high transmissibility of the N501Y mutant strain, any infection involving helpers might result in cross-household infections.   Hence, the requirement for FDHs to receive compulsory testing is necessary.   The bureau emphasised that compulsory testing also applies to people in other high-risk industries, such as staff of residential care homes for the elderly, residential care homes for people with disabilities and nursing homes. There is no discrimination on race or status.   The Government appeals to all FDHs to receive vaccination as soon as possible to protect their own health and that of their employers' family and others, and to avoid being subject to any regular testing in the future. Employers should encourage and assist their helpers to receive vaccination, such as allowing sufficient rest after vaccination.   Regarding the arrangement of requiring the helpers to receive recognised vaccines when applying for contract renewal in the future, the Labour Department and the Immigration Department are working out the relevant details.   If an FDH chooses to work in Hong Kong, he or she may receive the vaccination. If a helper is unable to receive vaccination due to health reasons, he or she may be considered for exemption from the requirement.   As regards the helper's medical expenses, the employer's responsibility is the same as that under the existing regulation.   According to the Standard Employment Contract, if the FDH is ill or suffers personal injury during the period of employment, the employer shall provide free medical treatment.   Under the prevailing policy, eligible helpers enjoy public healthcare services at a highly-subsidised rate by the Government.   Under the Indemnity Fund for Adverse Events Following Immunization with COVID-19 Vaccines, an FDH could, like other Hong Kong people, apply for financial support from the indemnity fund if he or she suffers unexpected serious adverse events associated with the vaccine.   Relevant departments will make an announcement after confirming the details of the arrangements.

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