By Argyll Geducos
The Interagency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved the interim guidelines on the repatriation of overseas Filipinos working in cruise ships.
In a virtual presser, Cabinet Secretary and IATF spokesman Karlo Nograles said the Bureau of Quarantine was likewise directed to update the existing algorithm for the triage of patients with possible coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection in ports of entry, which shall apply to land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who may be repatriated through the efforts of the national government.
He added that a sub-technical working group (TWG) was also directed to formulate guidelines to manage and ensure the welfare of repatriated OFWs. The said group is composed of the departments of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Tourism (DOT), Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Health (DOH).
According to Nograles, the New Clark City Athlete’s Village in Tarlac shall continue to be designated as a temporary quarantine facility for repatriated OFWs.
In late February, the Philippine government repatriated 445 Filipinos from the COVID-19-hit Japanese cruise ship MV Diamond Princess.
On Saturday, 370 Filipino crew members aboard Italy-docked cruise ships returned to the country. Of this number, 248 came from MV Costa Luminosa docked in Milan, while 122 were crew members of MV Grandiosa and MV Opera both docked in Rome.
Passage through checkpoints
Nograles, meanwhile, reminded local government units (LGUs) to allow OFWs cleared of the deadly disease and those required to undergo mandatory quarantine to pass through checkpoints.
“LGUs are hereby strongly enjoined to allow the unhampered transit of OFWs who have been issued DOH or LGU certificate of completion of 14-day facility-based quarantine, or those who may be required by the DOH or LGUs to undergo a mandatory 14-day home quarantine,” he said.
“Pursuant to the policy of allowing the unhampered movement of all cargoes, LGUs and local health units (LHUs) are hereby enjoined not to issue orders that run counter to said directive,” he added.
Aside from OFWs, Nograles said LGUs and LHUs cannot issue an order requiring asymptomatic drivers and crews of cargo or service delivery vehicles to undergo mandatory 14-day home quarantine.
Based on the IATF Resolution No. 14, series of 2020, such vehicles, with or without load, with not more than three personnel onboard, are exempted from the quarantine restrictions. Provided, that social distancing measures must be strictly observed, which may include, if necessary, the putting up of additional safe and humane seats or space in the vehicles.
“Kailangan pong tuloy-tuloy ang daloy ng mga kargamento, exempted po ang mga ito sa ECQ (We need to ensure the unhampered flow of cargo. These are exempted from the enhanced community quarantine),” Nograles said.
“Hindi required ang mga drayber at crew ng cargo at delivery truck na mag-14 day quarantine,” he said. (Drivers and crew of cargo and delivery trucks are not required to undergo 14-day quarantine.)