By Betheena Unite
More than 19,400 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have been repatriated to the Philippines, most of them seafarers from 75 cruise ships, a foreign affairs official said Saturday.
Foreign Affairs undersecretary Brigido Dulay said that as of Saturday, a total of 19,466 OFWs have returned into the country in the middle of the fight against COVID-19. Of this number, 15,130 are seafarers from 75 cruise ships.
“Bumuhos ito noong nag-umpisa ang enhanced community quarantine sa loob lamang ng ilang linggo… Marami pang parating in the next few days galing sa ibang bansa (These OFWs came home since the start of the enhanced community quarantine within weeks… Many more OFWs are expected to return in the next few days),” Dulay said during the Laging Handa press briefing.
The undersecretary reiterated that all returning OFWs should undergo 14-day quarantine in any of the quarantine facilities set up by the government. If a cruise ship was found “clean” or free of any COVID-19 infection, however, the government is compelled to certify their 14-day quarantine while onboard the ship and in transit into the Philippines.
He also added that the sub-task group on the repatriation of OFWs under the interagency task force on emerging infectious diseases “has been polishing protocols on the travel of OFWs back to their hometowns.”
A document certifying the overseas workers for completing the 14-day quarantine inside national isolation facilities are also given to OFWs prior to going home to their provinces so that their local government units would honor that they have undergone self quarantine.
“Minsan nagkakaroon ng hindi pagkakaintindihan dahil may sariling patakaran ang local government unit na ipinapatupad na minsan gusto nila na umulit yung mga OFWs na mag-quarantine sa kanila at sinasabi nga namin dito sa task force na yung nakatapos at nakakumpleto na ng quarantine ay dire-diresto na makatuloy sa kanilang mga bahay (There are instances when the LGUs want the OFWs to retake a 14-day quarantine in compliance with their own quarantine regulations. That’s why the task force is insisting that those workers who have completed their 14-day quarantine must be allowed to finally go home),” Dulay said.
When travel restriction eases, Dulay said, OFWs from provinces in Visayas and Mindanao would be sent back home.