Bohol issues stringent protocols for distressed, stranded returning OFWs

Published April 26, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Minerva BC Newman

TAGBILARAN CITY – Bohol Governor Arthur Yap signed Executive Order No. 25 that enumerated the stringent quarantine protocols for the repatriation of distressed and stranded returning Boholano overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, and for the safety of the province’s 1.3 million residents as well.

Bohol third dis­trict representative Arthur Yap  (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Bohol third dis­trict representative Arthur Yap (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The first batch of 18 out of the 81 Boholano OFWs accounted so far by the Overseas Welfare Administration (OWWA) who will be allowed entry to Bohol, have been on lockdown in Cebu since their arrival two to three weeks ago.

The national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) strongly enjoined local government units (LGUs) to allow the unhampered transit of the OFWs who have been issued Department of Health (DOH) or LGU certificates of completion of the 14-day facility-based quarantine.

The Bohol COVID-19 Task Force Medical Technical Team crafted the guidelines in allowing the entry of returning migrant workers to the province which the League of the Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) – Bohol Chapter adopted the guidelines in a resolution on April 20.

Based on the EO, the OFWs will be subjected to the following stringent protocols:

· They shall undergo a complete 14-day quarantine supervised and duly certified by the DOH at the point of origin and followed by the conduct of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved rapid antibody test.

· A person who is positive in the rapid COVID-19 antibody test shall remain at the place of origin for further testing using the viral RNA (PCR) method. Corresponding Protocols shall be allowed corresponding to the testing result and confirmation.

· If any member of a group in a common quarantine facility tests positive in the rapid test, the whole group shall remain at the place of origin for further viral RNA ((PCR) testing

· On the other hand, a person who tests negative in the rapid test and has completed the 14-day quarantine shall present a DOH certification of quarantine and the result of the rapid test to the OWWA and Bohol Provincial Emergency Management Administration (PEMA).

· PEMA must receive the DOH certification of quarantine and the negative result within 24 hours before the OFW’s scheduled departure for Bohol.

· On departure date, there shall be no disruption of the travel of the OFWs from the quarantine facility at the place of origin to the seaport/airport.

· The returning OFW must have no symptoms such as fever, cough, coryza, sore throat, diarrhea, and shortness of breathing at the time of plane/ship boarding.

· All persons with symptom/s shall not be allowed to board the aircraft/vessel regardless of having taken any test and a certification issued to that effect.

· Masks shall always be worn during the transportation process. Hand sanitation must be done at every point of vehicle transfer.

· The pick-up vehicle shall be ready at the port of arrival. Passengers shall not be allowed to disembark or deplane if the ground transportation is not yet available.

· Immediately upon arrival, they shall be placed in a PEMA-approved quarantine facility for 14 days.

· Transfer from port of arrival to the quarantine facility or hotel shall in no case be disrupted.

· Persons who have tested negative in the rapid antibody test at the point of embarkation shall undergo viral RNA (PCR) testing one week after the arrival at the quarantine facility in Bohol to confirm the result of the rapid test.

· Protocols at the quarantine facility shall be followed strictly without exemptions.

· Persons under quarantine cannot be visited by members of their families or any persons for the duration of their 14-day quarantine.

· All repatriation processes shall be suspended until further notice once a positive case is found either in the group or in the province.

However, the repatriation protocol shall not apply to returning Boholano OFWs from the National Capital Region due to the “high disease burden” there. The protocols are subject to continuing review due to the evolving nature and treatment of the pandemic, the medical technical team said.

Yap ordered the PEMA in coordination with all concerned agencies to undertake the planning and implementation of the executive issuance. Only after the OFWs in the initial batch shall have completed their quarantine that another group will be considered for entry, Yap added.

“Hopefully by that time, the capabilities and confidence increase in handling returning Boholanos. We can, thus, decide to increase the rate we are accepting Bol-anons to come home,” Yap said.

Bohol has been considered by the IATF among the “low-risk” provinces to be placed under general community quarantine until May 15 and Yap asked for one week to harmonize the IATF resolutions with the executive orders he had issued.

Yap added that Boholanos have to be aware of the strategy to prevent the virus from coming, and to prevent its spread locally in case of transmission and build up Bohol’s healthcare ability to respond to cases.

“As Bohol moves on to the ‘new normal’ we must accept that COVID-19 will be with us for years and the Boholanos have to learn to live with COVID, survive with COVID, and not die because of COVID,” Yap stated.