New stage in fighting the pandemic – Tightened passenger flight suspension mechanism may impact on foreign domestic helpers and their employers

18 April 2021

The Chief Executive set out the new direction in fighting the pandemic last Monday (April 12). Apart from restoring the city to normality in a gradual and orderly manner on the basis of the "vaccine bubble", infection control measures will also be reinforced in a targeted manner, one of which is to guard against the importation of virus variants into Hong Kong.

In this connection, the Food and Health Bureau has already announced the implementation of tightened passenger flight suspension mechanism (please refer to the relevant press release for details). It should be noted that a place-specific flight suspension mechanism has been added in parallel. Under the mechanism effective from April 14, should a total of five or more passengers among flights from the same place be confirmed by arrival tests for COVID-19 with the N501Y mutant strain (variant of concern as identified by the World Health Organisation) within a period of seven-day or even a shorter period, the Government would prohibit all passenger flights from that place from landing in Hong Kong for a period of 14 days. At the same time, the Government would specify that place as an extremely high-risk place under Cap. 599H to restrict persons who have stayed in that place for more than two hours from boarding passenger flights to Hong Kong for a period of 14 days, so as to prevent persons from the relevant place from arriving in Hong Kong via transit. After 14 days, the relevant place would be specified as a very high-risk place, and passenger flights to Hong Kong from that place could resume. Persons in the relevant place who fulfilled the boarding requirements could board flights to Hong Kong. However, they must undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days upon arrival at Hong Kong.

Why would I, as Secretary for Labour and Welfare, see the need to draw the public's attention to this tightened mechanism? If one looks at the distribution of COVID-19 confirmed cases released by the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health each day, one would notice that the recent imported COVID-19 cases, both confirmed/suspected, were mainly brought in by inbound flights from certain countries/places, including the Philippines and Indonesia, which are major places of origin of foreign domestic helpers (FDHs). Given the serious epidemic situation in the Philippines recently, there is a high chance that it would be affected by the new place-specific flight suspension mechanism.

About 100 FDHs arrive in Hong Kong by air every day in April. In case the place-specific flight suspension mechanism is invoked by the aforesaid detection of confirmed arrival cases, all inbound passenger flights from the places concerned would be prohibited from landing in Hong Kong for a period of 14 days, which may affect over a thousand FDHs and their employers. Not only would newly-hired FDHs be delayed from arriving in Hong Kong, but those who have returned to their home country for vacation may also be stranded. Yet, given the overriding priority in combatting the pandemic, it is necessary for our health authority to tighten the flight suspension mechanism. We therefore remind FDHs, employers and employment agencies to make plans in advance. The Labour Department has already reached out to the Consulates General of major FDH sending countries in Hong Kong, FDH and employer groups as well as employment agency associations to inform them of the implementation of the new mechanism, and to widely disseminate the relevant messages with a view to passing the news to employers and FDHs quickly for making early preparations.

Flexibility arrangement of deferral of return to place of origin

The Government has rolled out a number of measures to support FDHs and their employers to cope with the pandemic since early 2020, so as to reduce the need for FDHs to enter and leave Hong Kong. Employers are allowed to extend the validity period of existing contracts with their outgoing FDHs. For all FDH contracts that will expire on or before June 30, 2021, the Commissioner for Labour has given in-principle consent for extending the employment period for a maximum period of three months subject to agreement between the employer and the FDH. We have also further extended the flexibility arrangement of deferral of FDHs’ return to their places of origin. If an FDH is unable to return to his/her place of origin within the first one-year deferral period, he/she may, upon agreement of his/her employer, apply to the Immigration Department for a further extension of limit of stay until the end of his/her contract such that he/she may return to the place of origin within that period. We announced the extension of the facilitation arrangements last month (March 29).

The above flexibility arrangements must be mutually agreed between the employer and the FDH. We appreciate that FDHs would want to go back to their home countries for family reunion. Most of the FDHs who have completed and renewed their contracts in early 2020 have not had the chance to return home to visit their families for two or three years. On the other hand, employers are understandably concerned about any hindrance faced by FDHs during their home trips from and to Hong Kong. I appeal to candid dialogues, mutual respect and understanding between FDHs and their employers in working out an appropriate arrangement.

Let's get vaccinated

In case FDHs need to return home during this period of time, employers should encourage them to get vaccinated before leaving Hong Kong. By doing so, not only would FDHs protect themselves, their employers and their friends in Hong Kong, but also their families and friends at home. Supply of vaccines is still very tight in many places. Here in Hong Kong, we have ensured a sufficient supply of vaccines, which are provided to the public free of charge. Indeed, FDHs have been listed as a priority group for receiving vaccination. I appeal to FDHs and employers to take the opportunity to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The Labour Department has published leaflets on vaccination in Chinese, English and major FDH languages (including Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesia) and has distributed them to FDHs through various channels. The leaflets are available on the dedicated FDH portal ( of the Labour Department. The Consulate General of the Philippines in Hong Kong and the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Hong Kong have also played an active role in assisting the promotion. The Labour Department has already liaised with other groups to widely disseminate messages of encouraging FDHs to get vaccinated, such as through Facebook and other online social media platforms of FDH groups, local Filipino and Indonesian newspapers read by FDHs and their respective Facebook pages, e-wallet applications frequently used by FDHs, the non-governmental organisation at the airport and churches.


COVID-19 Vaccination Programme pdf Format