Domestic workers

‘Unfair and racist’: President of Macau Household Workers Union slams government order for all Filipinos to take Covid-19 tests

A domestic workers’ union has denounced the Macau government’s order requiring all Filipinos in the city to undergo daily Covid-19 tests, calling it discriminatory.

Jassy Santos, president of the Macau Progressive Domestic Workers Union, told HKFP that she believes the requirement unfairly targets Filipinos at a time when many – who work primarily as domestic workers or in sectors affected by the outbreak, especially tourism and gambling – were already struggling.

Macau. File photo: konkarampelas, via Pixabay.

“If the government is really serious about [tackling] the epidemic, why not [test] everything? Why not mainlanders, Myanmar people [and] Dubai?” asked the 46-year-old Filipino, adding that the order was “racist and unfair”.

Macau, which had been spared major Covid-19 outbreaks since the outbreak began more than two years ago, saw a dramatic spike in cases this month. The number of daily cases reached more than 100 in early July, although the situation has improved considerably with just five new infections – none of which have been classified as community cases – recorded on Thursday.

The government announced on Thursday that it would now include “persons of Filipino nationality” in a key group of Covid-19 testing, requiring them to undergo three days of testing from Friday. Mass testing previously involved either the entire population or people working in certain industries or having visited certain areas.

Anti-epidemic workers in Macau. Photo: Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center, via Facebook.

The requirement includes Filipinos residing in Macau. Children under three and people with disabilities are not exempt.

The city recorded 5,678 Covid-19 infections and six deaths on Thursday, according to the Macau Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the statement, authorities said that of the total number of Covid-19 cases recorded in Macau, 171 – or 9.5% – were Filipinos. The figure was described as “relatively high”.

“As this group of people interacts very frequently, we hope to … find the potential cases in the community through testing.”

A government notice ordering Filipinos in Macau to undergo three days of Covid-19 testing. Photo: Macao SAR Government Portal.

Macau was placed under strict control on July 11. Businesses, including casinos that contribute half of the city’s GDP, are closed and people are not allowed to leave their homes except for essential activities such as grocery shopping.

The consulate defends the requirement

The Philippine consulate in Macau, however, defended the city’s demand and urged Filipinos to comply.

“Let’s avoid making this order a political issue. We should see this as a health issue…to achieve the dynamic zero-Covid goal,” the consulate wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Macau’s pandemic strategy is closely aligned with that of mainland China, with strict lockdowns and a color-coded health code system that determines whether one can enter businesses such as restaurants and hotels.

A worker carries out cleaning work at a casino in Macau. Photo: Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Center, via Facebook.

“The current times and situation demand…our broader understanding,” the message read, adding that “cooperation and support” was essential for the “safety of the entire Macau society to which we belong.”

Santos, who had worked in Macau as a domestic worker for seven years, said she was “very disappointed” that the consulate supported the Macanese authorities.

“They didn’t ask the government why there were only Filipinos [who have to get tested]she told HKFP.

There are about 30,000 Filipinos in Macau, according to the consulate.

Macau. Photo: El Freddy, via Flickr.

Last year, the Hong Kong government also ordered domestic workers to take mandatory Covid-19 tests, a move widely criticized by activist groups as racist. At the time, the Philippine and Indonesian consulates in the city called on the government to apply pandemic rules fairly.

“At least the consulate[s] in Hong Kong knows how to stand [for workers],” she says.

HKFP has contacted the Macau government and the Philippine consulate in the city for comment.

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