Stop playing the discrimination card

Editorial | Mary Ma 6 May 2021

Discrimination is a word that leads to endless debates, without any fruitful outcomes. It's a word that's hard to define, but easy to exploit.

So is the demand that all domestic helpers be tested for Covid - no matter from which country they originate - discriminatory?

Also, is the plan requiring helpers to show proof of vaccination as a new condition for renewing their work visas racist?

Understandably, feelings have been hurt - and labor secretary Law Chi-kwong failed to render any help when he told the helpers to give up their jobs if they disliked the requirements so much.

Those were the last kind of remarks Hong Kong needed.

However, the measures are not racist. For one, domestic helpers are not the only occupation facing the testing order.

Care-home, public transport and restaurant workers have also been subject to the requirement. As time passes, I'm sure the list will get longer, with more occupations added.

No one wants to single out a particular group for special treatment and, if not for the discovery of the Covid mutant variants in some domestic helpers, government scientists would not have called for the special measures.

Crying foul about unfounded discrimination is a disservice to the pandemic battle and threatens to undermine efforts to fight the virus.

We all know the ultimate solution lies in vaccination, but this will only happen after a majority of the population is vaccinated. So for everyone's sake, stop playing the discrimination card.

Making vaccination a condition for new work visas is controversial but necessary, and may even become an international norm.

If the Philippine consulate had not spoken against it loudly, it is highly doubtful that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would have backpedaled so weakly on a plan to make Covid vaccination a condition for new work visas for domestic workers.

The back and forth came as tension has continued to rise between Manila and Beijing of late. While the Philippines' top diplomat Teodoro Locsin told Chinese fishing boats to "get the f*** out" of his country's exclusive economic zone - and apologized the next day - together with sarcastic praise of Lam as being Hong Kong's best leader since the Opium War, these remarks have surely raised many eyebrows both in Hong Kong and Beijing.

Nonetheless, the tone was set and Lam backpedaled. Such a development can be dangerous at a time when it is vital to ramp up vaccinations.

Perhaps the government might also consider widening supplies to include a greater variety of vaccines to help boost public confidence while striving to accelerate the rollouts.

Meanwhile, it's great to learn that the government has undertaken to review the quarantine requirement for those who have fully been vaccinated so that they may not have to be locked up for as many days as they do now if a neighbor tests positive to Covid.

Some medical specialists, including Leung Chi-chiu, may disagree but it's up to the policymakers to call the shots after listening to opinions from all around.

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