By Hanah Tabios
The foreign affairs department is set to repatriate Filipinos from Wuhan, China starting this week.
This was announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Ernesto Abella during Monday’s Palace briefing on the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“As of an hour ago or 45 minutes ago, we found out that about 40 Filipinos have already requested to be repatriated. The goal is to be able to fetch them within the week that is the intended goal,” Abella said.
The announcement was made three days after the DFA called for a voluntary repatriation of Filipino workers and residents in Hubei province in China, as well as in Wuhan City, which is the ground zero of China’s virus epidemic. Abella said those who plan to signify for the government’s call may contact the consulate general in Shanghai Monday, February 3.
“The aircraft may leave for China sometime this week. A rapid response team from DFA-OMWA (Office of Migrant Workers Affairs), with 5 to 7 medical personnel from DOH, maybe deployed to fetch the Filipino repatriates,” he added.
The Office of the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai had earlier said that there are around 300 Filipinos in Hubei province, with 150 in Wuhan City, which is the ground zero of China’s virus epidemic.
On Saturday, the Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases announced that it is eyeing two military facilities as possible quarantine sites for repatriated Filipinos which are the drug rehabilitation center in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and the naval station on Caballo Island in Manila Bay.
Abella, however, clarified that there is no Filipino in China infected by the virus so far. But he reminded Filipinos in the virus-infected country to continue checking advisories from the consulate offices.
“There are 295,047 Filipinos in mainland China. The Philippine Embassy and six Philippine Consulates continue to issue timely advisories through their official website and social media like WeChat. For all Foreign Service Posts, we have dedicated 24/7 hotline that Filipino nationals can call,” he said.
Meanwhile on Sunday, the DFA had already imposed a temporary issuance of visa for travelers to China and its special administrative regions (SARs) deemed immediately effective.
“The temporary suspension of visa issuance is also extended to foreign nationals within the past 14 days immediate preceding arrival in the Philippines to China and its SARs. This is on top of the previous announcement temporary suspending visa issuance for travelers coming from Hubei province,” the undersecretary said.