Domestic helpers share their side of story amidst COVID-19

2020-02-25 03:49     Comment:0

Virtually everyone in the city is being affected more or less by the COVID-19 prevention methods rolled out by the government since the Chinese New Year holiday.

All the schools are closed, some 70 percent of the city’s casinos have just reopened after a shutdown of 15 days, people queue outside pharmacies for their ration of facemasks to get into banks, post offices and government offices that are open and have their temperatures taken before they are allowed to enter a myriad of places, even residential buildings.

Despite there being a lot of inconvenience involved, most people living in the city appear to be happy enough to put up with it, despite the occasional grumble, as Macau has avoided a major outbreak and six of the 10 infected patients have since left hospital and returned home.

The Macau Post Daily spoke to two of the city’s indispensable domestic helpers yesterday to find out how they have been affected by the government’s measures against the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) epidemic and if they or any of their compatriots were finding life difficult.

Filipina Rose Labiano, working in Avenida do Ouvidor Arriaga, said, “I have not been affected at all; nothing has changed, except that after work I have to stay at home.”

Rose Labiano working in Avenida do Ouvidor Arriaga yesterday. Photo: Lesley Wells

‘Not worried about going out’

Labiano went on to say, “The buses are not crowded, so I am not worried about going out, like some others. Everyone on the bus has to wear a mask, but if someone coughs everyone looks at them as if the cougher has got the virus.”

Labiano said, “My roommate – my sister-in-law – is working less hours and not getting the same pay, which is a little unfair. But every Sunday we are staying at home and cooking and eating.”

Labiano added, “My sister now has to stay in [live with her employer], and her employer is paying her for the part-time work she is missing out on while being in her employer’s house.

‘Except to the rubbish bin’

“Vina, [Labiano’s sister] hasn’t been able to come home for the last two weeks. She cannot go out of the house at all – except to the rubbish bin.”

For Analiza Erenea, a stay-in Filipina domestic helper working for a young couple and their three-month-old boy, she has only been out on one Sunday since the end of January.

“I’m worried about the virus too,” Erenea told The Macau Post Daily on Sunday, “When I first heard about [the virus] I didn’t think much of it but then as I watched more news and what people say on social media, I realised that this is getting serious, it’s deadly.”

Erenea said that because of the development of the virus, she chose to stay in at her employer’s place on Sundays even though it is her day off. The only time she went out on Sunday during the past month was last week, when she went back to the flat she shares with her Filipina friends.

“My friends who are not stay-ins now have to stay in at their employer’s place because of the virus situation, so when I know that they are not at our flat, I decided to go back last Sunday and just spend the day there all by myself,” Erenea said, adding she knows that some Filipinas who refused to stay in at the employer’s place got fired, and some went back to the Philippines because they were worried being here.

“I’m so lucky,” Erenea said, regarding her situation with her employer and the government’s guarantee of facemasks for migrant workers, “I also feel safe in Macau, not like Hong Kong. My Filipina friends in Hong Kong are all worried, and I worry about my friends in Hong Kong too.”

According to Macau Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) data, at the end of last year Macau had 33,781 Filipinos working as non-resident workers (migrant workers) mostly as domestic helpers.

This photo provided by Analisa Erenea’s employer on Sunday shows Erenea (right) playing with her employer’s three-month-old son on Sunday.

Click refresh authentication code