MANILA – All Filipinos in need of emergency aid in Hong Kong have received assistance, the Philippine Consulate General said as the Chinese special administrative region is battling its fifth coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) wave.

Reports over the weekend said several Filipino employees who caught Covid-19 were fired by their employers leaving them unable to get admitted to hospitals due to the absence of employment visas while some were also even forced to sleep outdoors.

"The PCG in Hong Kong wishes to assure the Philippine community in Hong Kong that all Filipinos needing emergency assistance due to the recent surge of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong have been accounted for and assisted," the Consulate said in advisory forwarded by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday.

The consulate said at least 23 Filipinos have requested assistance either for hospital admission after testing positive while on their way to the airport, while in boarding houses, or with their employers.

"Through the intervention of the PCG and in collaboration with non-government organization friends and the Hong Kong Labor Department, they are now safe and staying in an isolation facility," it said.

In Monday's interview over ABS-CBN News Channel, Consul General Raly Tejada vowed to go after the employers, saying their basis of terminating these OFWs' contracts is illegal.

"Iyong mga walang pusong employer po na nagka-sakit na nga 'yong ating mga kababayan tinerminate pa, pananagutin natin sila sapagkat labag sa batas ng Hong Kong iyong mag-terminate ng maysakit na empleyado. Sa madaling salita hahabulin natin sila at pananagutin (We will hold accountable those heartless employers who fired our OFWs just because they got sick because it is illegal to terminate sick employees. In short, we will go after them and make them liable)," he said.

At least 41 overseas Filipino workers have been afflicted with Covid-19 in Hong Kong, eight of whom have recovered, three are going back to their employers, two returned to their boarding house, and three are ready to go back to the Philippines, latest data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) showed.

The consulate, meanwhile, noted that the Hong Kong government has taken special measures to address the sudden rise in cases, including the provision of an additional 20,000-capacity isolation facility, among others.

"The Labor Department has also assured the PCG that foreign domestic helpers needing medical attention and isolation will be accommodated," it said. 

Infections among OFWs now 60

Meanwhile, the DOLE on Tuesday reported that the number of overseas Filipino workers who contracted coronavirus in Hong Kong has reached 60 as of Monday.

Based on its latest data, the agency said 49 are asymptomatic and are in isolation, nine are symptomatic and admitted in hospitals while two have recovered.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III reported that through its after-care financial assistance program, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) Hong Kong initially provided US$200 (around PHP10,000) to qualified OFWs.

He added that an additional US$200 was given to OFWs with concerns regarding quarantine facilities.

The POLO is also helping in transporting infected OFWs to quarantine/isolation facilities and if needed, to hospitals in view of the current shortage in available ambulances, in coordination with the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection and non-government organizations.

It is closely coordinating with employers to reassure workers that they can still return to work once they recover since Covid-19 infection is not a valid ground for termination. (PNA)