Hong Kong asks PH to let OFWs return amid coronavirus scare

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) — Hong Kong is asking the Philippines to allow Filipino workers to return to the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The Philippines’ consul general in Hong Kong, Raly Tejada, said Tuesday that the city’s labor minister, Law Chi-kwong, asked the government to let Filipinos return to work, effectively exempting them from the travel ban which has barred all Filipinos and Philippine permanent residents from heading to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Tejada said Law assured that Hong Kong is doing its best to contain and combat the coronavirus, including shuttering most of its border with mainland China.

Labor officials said Tuesday that at least 300 Filipinos who work in China, Hong Kong and Macau were affected by the Philippines’ coronavirus travel ban.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has been tasked to give each stranded Filipino worker ₱10,000 in cash, dormitories and food. The Labor Department will also pay for their airfare if they opt to go back to their provinces.

Two Filipino domestic workers are now under quarantine in Hong Kong after being in close contact with people infected with the coronavirus. Both of them are not exhibiting symptoms of infection and may leave the quarantine camp in 14 days if they remain to be asymptomatic.

The Bureau of Immigration has maintained that even overseas Filipino workers are covered by the travel ban.

The Philippine government expanded its travel ban to include all of mainland China and its special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau. This came following the first death of a patient infected with the coronavirus in the country.

The 44-year-old Chinese man — the partner of the 38-year-old Chinese woman who is the country’s first coronavirus case — is also the first death due to the virus outside of mainland China.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.