While the resumption of games for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) this year remains bleak due to the threat of the coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), several players, however, are now preparing for their return to action.
Rain or Shine hotshot and star player James Yap, for instance went trending in the social media after posting a photo of him bidding his fiancée and two kids goodbye after spending three months of bonding moments in Italy.
“I have to go back because the PBA will already return. I have to go back to the Philippines because of work,” he told the Manila Bulletin.
But not so fast.
Retired Air Force general Restituto Padilla, spokesman for President Adviser on the Peace Process and Chief Implementer of the Philippines’ Declared National Policy Against COVID-19 Secretary Carlito Galvez, said there are protocols that have to be observed not only for Yap, but for all the returning Filipinos from abroad.
“He has to undergo a mandatory swab test and quarantine before he is allowed to go home or go to practice,” Padilla told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.
Padilla advised Yap to complete at least seven more days of self-quarantine even if he tests negative during the swab test, just to make sure.
He said the mandatory swab test is part of the health safety standard protocol for returning Filipino travellers, especially those who came from countries with high cases of COVID-19, like Italy.
The payment for the mandatory swab test, according to Padilla, is usually included in the purchase of plane tickets. But for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and seafarers, the payment is shouldered by the government if the cost is not inclusive in the plane ticket fees.
Padilla said all returning Filipinos, including Yap, must be transported to designated quarantine facilities approved by the government while waiting for the result of the swab test. Yap and any other returning Filipino are not allowed to choose their quarantine facility.
The designated quarantine facilities for private individuals are usually hotels and other areas approved by the Bureau of Quarantine.
“If he tests negative, then that is the time that he would be allowed to go out of the quarantine facility. That is the time that he would be allowed to be fetched from the quarantine facilities by his relatives, friends, or any driver,” said Padilla.
The cost of the hotel accommodations, according to Padilla, is usually shouldered by private individuals. The keys of the rooms where returning Filipinos would be quarantined are on the hands of quarantine authorities.
On the other hand there are designated quarantine facilities for returning OFWs and seafarers wherein all the cost is shouldered by the government, according to Padilla.
“If any returning Filipinos from travel abroad tested positive, they would be transported to isolation facilities identified and approved by the government,” said Padilla.
Yap said he would cooperate with all the health safety protocols implemented by the government.
Padilla, for his part, said he expects Yap and other returning Filipinos to be truthful in answering the COVID-19 checklist forms that are required to be filled out.
The form includes questions on whether or not a person is suffering from symptoms associated with COVID-19 like cough, fever, difficulty in breathing and loss of sense of taste and smell. It also includes questions on whether or not a person had close contact with COVID-19 patients.
“It must be answered truthfully, otherwise, they would compromise the safety of their family and friends,” said Padilla.