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Quarantine for arriving 42k OFWs worries government

The arrival in the next few months of 42,000 more Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) might “overwhelm” quarantine facilities set up by the government, National Task Force COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez said Wednesday.

Quarantine for arriving 42k OFWs worries government
PASSING CHECKS. Motorcyclists line both lanes of the road at the Zapote district leading to Bacoor, Cavite, and Las Pinas City on Wednesday as they pass through strict checkpoints. Norman Cruz
This as more than 13,000 OFWs stuck in hotels and cruise ships docked at the Manila Bay may be allowed to return to their respective homes and provinces once their coronavirus test results are released by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) this week, Malacañang said.

At the same time, the national government will expedite the processing and release of COVID-19 test results of OFWs to free up quarantine facilities and accommodate a fresh batch of repatriates expected to arrive in the coming weeks, Malacañang said.

Speaking to President Rodrigo Duterte during a late night address aired on Tuesday, Galvez said agencies were facing problems in ensuring OFWs move smoothly from testing and quarantine to their hometowns north and south of the capital.

About 30,000 OFWs have undergone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. Of the 22,432 results that have been released, 465 have turned out positive, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“We have more than 13,000 who finished testing and now have certificates. The 13,000 can be sent home already,” Roque added.

He also asked the OWWA to provide an inventory of repatriated OFWs still awaiting results of their tests in quarantine facilities.

The government has turned massive convention centers and sports facilities as patient care centers for OFWs and suspected COVID-19 patients.

READ: DOLE hard-pressed to cope with OFW demand for aid

Hotels and passenger ships are also being used as quarantine facilities.

As of May 14, there were 32,264 repatriates from 362 vessels, 22,903 or 71 percent of whom have completed their respective quarantine.

Of the 8,130 land-based repatriates, 7,446 or 92 percent are still in quarantine.

“We must expedite the results because we don’t have enough hotel rooms for our OFWs to stay in while they wait for their polymerase chain reaction test results,” he said in an interview over GMA’s Unang Hirit, beamed nationwide.

Roque said he would press concerned agencies, particularly OWWA, to process and release OFWs’ test results as early as possible.

He added: “My promise is that I will continue to badger all inter-agency, the OWWA, to find out and ensure that the results won’t take long, that they’re already being processed and being relayed because we need more space for the expected return of more OFWs.”

In an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Roque disclosed some 13,000 repatriated OFWs, or nearly half of those in the country, could "soon" leave quarantine facilities.

"There are now 13,000 (negative COVID-10) test results with certificates, meaning the 13,000 individuals would soon be allowed to leave the quarantine facility," he said.

READ: 'Fix quarantine plan for OFWs, even at NAIA'

In a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, taped and aired over state-run PTV4 late Tuesday night, Galvez said more than 27,000 repatriated OFWs were undergoing quarantine in various facilities in Metro Manila.

Roque earlier gave assurances the government would address the complaints of OFWs stuck in quarantine facilities beyond the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

The Bureau of Quarantine, as of May 13, has been manning a total 80 quarantine facilities (58 are hotels or similar facilities, while 22 are cruise ships) covering 12,476 repatriates.

As of May 14, there were 32,264 repatriates from 362 vessels, 22,903 or 71 percent of whom have completed their respective quarantine.

Of the 8,130 land-based repatriates, 7,446 or 92 percent are still in quarantine.

All returning OFWs are required to undergo facility-based quarantine and testing for COVID-19 under the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said 91 distressed Filipinos in Myanmar have been repatriated by the Philippine Embassy in Yangon.

The DFA said repatriates were stranded in Yangon due to flight cancellations or lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were back in Manila Monday.

The distressed Filipinos stayed in Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, and other regions.

According to the DFA, the repatriates were provided transportation and temporary hotel accommodation while awaiting the chartered repatriation flight to Manila via Air Asia.

Quarantine for arriving 42k OFWs worries government
PASSING CHECKS. Motorcyclists line both lanes of the road at the Zapote district leading to Bacoor, Cavite, and Las Pinas City on Wednesday as they pass through strict checkpoints, following reports that many motorists faked quarantine passes issued by the government to get past authorities. JR Josue
A team from the Philippine Embassy in Yangon led by Ambassador to Myanmar Eduardo Kapunan Jr. helped the Filipinos from registering for the flight until boarding the plane bound for Manila. With PNA

Topics: Overseas Filipino Workers , quarantine facilities , National Task Force , COVID-19 , Carlito Galvez
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