By Martin Sadongdong
The government is exercising utmost caution to prevent a new surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection as at least 19 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have tested positive for the illness, the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 bared on Wednesday.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of NTF COVID-19, said there were 23,480 OFWs undergoing mandatory isolation in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila and other nearby regions — 16,738 are seafarers while 6,742 are land-based OFWs.
Of these, a total of 2,100 have been tested at the laboratory of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) upon their arrival.
“Sa 2,100 na tinest na OFWs, sa unofficial report may 19 na positive. We’re still awaiting for [an] official report of the Philippine Red Cross (Of the 2,100 OFWs tested, there were 19 who are positive based on the unofficial report. We’re still awaiting for [an] official report from the Philippine Red Cross),” Galvez said in a Laging Handa briefing.
A total of 44,724 OFWs — 29,724 seafarers and 15,000 land-based workers — are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, Galvez said.
He said the capacity of quarantine facilities in Metro Manila has been nearly exceeded prompting the suspension of all inbound airline passenger flights into the country starting last Sunday, May 3.
“Halos puno na ang hotels at accommodation sa Metro Manila. Mahirap ikontrol ‘yan at baka malusutan tayo kaya pineprepare lang natin para mapigilan ‘yung second wave (The hotels and accommodation in Metro Manila are almost full. It will be difficult to control and we might have a problem later on that’s why we are preparing to prevent the second wave),” Galvez noted.
The suspension of inbound flights will last until Friday, May 8, but Galvez said that there will only be a limited number of passengers that will be accepted once the airports re-open so that the quarantine facilities could accommodate them.
“We will start accepting inbound passengers from abroad this coming Friday pero limited to 400 to 500 para at least kaya i-manage (so that we can at least manage them),” he said.
Earlier this week, Galvez said the government will prioritize the testing of all OFWs undergoing isolation in quarantine facilities so that they could trace, isolate and treat those who are virus-carriers.
As of Tuesday, the Department of Health said there were already 9,684 confirmed cases with 1,408 recoveries and 637 deaths.