Hong Kong Pauses Plan to Force COVID-19 Vaccination on Foreign Workers

(Reuters) -

Hong Kong authorities have rowed back on plans to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for foreign domestic workers, after human rights groups slammed the policy as being discriminatory.

After a domestic worker from the Philippines was found to have a more contagious variant of the coronavirus last week, authorities said all 370,000 foreign domestic workers in the city would have to get tested before May 9.

Domestic workers would also need to get vaccinated before renewing their employment contracts, authorities said.

Female domestic workers – largely from the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka – usually live with their employers in Hong Kong.

During lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus, they were kept away from their usual social gatherings with friends on their one day off each week.

After the order on mandatory testing, domestic workers had queued for hours on Sunday – their usual day off – to get tested, said Dolores Balladares, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, a workers’ rights group.

“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,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.