Live-in domestic workers in Hong Kong have been left homeless after they were diagnosed with Covid-19 and their employers fired them or refused their return to the residence, support groups have said.
Many of the workers, who are mostly women from Indonesia and the Philippines, were also left without insurance to cover their medical bills.
Hong Kong is in the midst of its worst ever outbreak with the Omicron variant infecting thousands of people a day, overwhelming hospitals and government isolation facilities.
The problem is exacerbated by strict policies of mandatory isolation for patients and close contacts, with tens of thousands of people unable to find accommodation.
They have instead been told to isolate at home, but in the cases of dozen of domestic workers, their employers have refused to let them.
There are an estimated 390,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong, working six days a week, for a minimum HK$4630 (US$593) a month plus food and board. They are legally required to live with their employers and isolating anywhere else, other than government facilities or hospital, is illegal.
Maria*, a domestic worker from the Philippines, tested positive on a rapid antigen test. She said her employer gave her three options – pay for her own stay in a quarantine hotel for two weeks, go to hospital and “tell them I am very sick”, or have her contract terminated.
“I went to hospital in the morning but there were so many patients I finished at 6 o’clock in the evening,” she said. “My employer told me I can’t come back to their house, because I was dangerous and I was afraid that I would transfer the virus.”
Stranded at midnight, Maria’s friends reached out to an NGO, HELP For Domestic Workers, who found her a place in a shelter. Other workers have been forced to sleep in parks, at overpasses, or outside hospitals.
HELP said they were assisting more than 100 workers left homeless, including at least a dozen who were fired or ordered not to return to the…