Some 1,300 overseas Filipino workers will be barred from entering Hong Kong after the special administrative region’s government suspended travel from the Philippines, India, and Pakistan for two weeks due to a COVID-19 strain, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said Monday.
During a Department of Labor and Employment press briefing, POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia said about half of 2,600 workers bound for Hong Kong would be affected by the travel restriction.
Hong Kong authorities have been urging residents to get vaccinated for coronavirus with only around 9 percent of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents vaccinated so far.
The government last week widened the city’s vaccine scheme to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost lackluster demand for inoculations amongst residents.
Airlines impacted by Hong Kong’s ban on travelers from India, Pakistan and the Philippines include carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Vistara and Cebu Pacific.
Olalia said: “With the temporary suspension in deployment, half of the 2,600 workers can’t leave so more or less 1,300 workers will be affected.”
But he said the processing and issuance of Overseas Employment Certifications would continue despite the travel ban in other countries.
Before the pandemic, Olalia said an average 13,000 Filipinos would go to work in Hong Kong every month. It decreased to 2,600 a month due to lockdown restrictions from the pandemic.
Olalia noted that Hong Kong is the fourth top destination for Filipinos looking for more job opportunities abroad.
For OFWs with canceled flights due to the Hong Kong travel ban, Olalia said they could coordinate their concerns with their concerned private recruitment agencies.
He added: “There is a private recruitment agency, they will coordinate with stranded OFWs. We have rules in 2016, which we amended, and extended monitoring and assistance to OFWs, including those who are stranded.”
More hotels converted
At least 21 hotels in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Region 4A that were converted into isolation facilities adding as much as 2,222 more rooms to the country’s health capacity, the Department of Tourism (DOT) announced Monday.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat commended the hotel industry’s continued support in repurposing their accommodation establishments (AEs) into isolation and quarantine facilities.
“The DOT is one with the entire tourism industry to help mitigate the effects of this pandemic in any way it can. We are guided by our Bayanihan spirit, which has strengthened us since the on-set of the pandemic, in working together with the private and public sectors towards our nation’s recovery,” said Puyat.
She stressed that together with the hotel industry, the DOT commits to support the national efforts in prioritizing the health and safety of the general public.
Two more AEs in Quezon City will add another 184 rooms on standby, according to the Oplan Kalinga secretariat.
World Health Organization experts are still assessing the extent of the transmission of new coronavirus variants in the Philippines.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it was up to the WHO to declare community transmission, which would mean that there were no longer links between COVID-19 cases carrying the new variants.
“Until now, there is still no recommendation from WHO if we will already classify Metro Manila, for example, as one having this community transmission,” Vergeire said in an online briefing.
“The assessment of community transmission has to be very cautious and very tedious because this has international consequences or impact,” said Vergeire.
Vergeire said experts are discussing how to improve biosurveillance efforts to ensure that the samples collected weekly paint an “accurate” picture of the transmission of new variants.
Malacañang called on PhilHealth to allow the Development Bank of the Philippines to help the state insurer speed up the release of its hospital reimbursements amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a news briefing “”Maybe it is time for PhilHealth to look into DBP’s suggestion that it will [pay in] advance [the] hospitals’ receivables subject to submission of documents. They just have to agree which documents need to be submitted.”
Roque was reacting to the appeal of private hospitals for PhilHealth to speed up its reimbursement amid the pandemic, given that private hospitals need all the resources they can get to take care of COVID-19 patients.
Roque, however, conceded that he had yet to discuss the matter with President Rodrigo Duterte since he himself has just recovered from COVID-19.
Warning vs. Lianhua
The Food and Drug Administration warned the public against the sale and use of unregistered drug product Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang with Chinese characters.
Based on its advisory dated April 7, FDA said their continuing post-marketing surveillance saw “incessant sale” of the product even on social media.
“As per continuing post-marketing surveillance, there is still incessant sale and distribution even through social media platforms such as Facebook, of Lianhua Qingwen Jiaonang with Chinese characters, which were verified as unregistered by the FDA,” the FDA said.
The FDA warned that only the drug with English text and said details in the advisory was issued with a Certificate of Product Registration and approved to be sold or marketed in the country.
“Thus, the agency cannot guarantee the quality and safety of the product with the Chinese text due to these have not undergone evaluation by the FDA and came from unlicensed sources or establishments. The consumption of such violative products may pose potential danger or injury if administered,” the FDA said.
A legislator from Metro Manila has appealed to different sectors to work together to enlighten the public on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.
Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano said people were inclined to listen to their loved ones and community leaders when it comes to information about the COVID-19.
“Extraordinary problems call for extraordinary solutions. Who do people really listen to? First, their parents. Second, their teachers.
Third, their religious leaders, like their priests, ministers, imams, or pastors. And the media. It should be a multi-sector effort,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano urged the national government to work with different stakeholders in explaining COVID-19 to the public and the importance of observing minimum health protocols.
“The national government should not just approach its own agencies. We need teamwork and a multi-sectoral approach through which we can patiently explain what kind of virus this is, its mode of infection, and what protocols are important,” said Cayetano.