Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Sunday renewed his call to overseas Filipino workers to follow health and safety measures imposed in their host countries especially in the face of the new strain of the coronavirus.
“There is no room for complacency. We cannot let our guard down. Despite the availability of Covid vaccines in your country of work, the virus remains an imminent threat to your health and safety,” he said in a statement.
Bello issued the call as new cases of Covid 19 continue to be recorded among OFWs.
Citing reports from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLOs), the Labor department said the whole of the Middle East region remains to be highest recorded cases of infection among OFWs at 7,844 as of January 13.
It added that the region recorded 3,697 recoveries and 619 deaths.
“Qatar reported the single biggest number of cases at 3,873, with 14 new Covid cases among OFWs in the last 24 hours. Nineteen OFW casualties were recorded,” said DoLE.
The Labor department said countries in Europe and the Americas listed 3,078 cases with 265 deaths, and 2,372 recoveries.
While there were 1,239 reported cases of OFW infection in Asia and the Pacific with one death and 1,165 recoveries.
The highest recovery among OFWs, DoLE said, is also in Europe and the Americas with 2,372 cases, followed by Asia at 1,165 and Middle East with only 619 reported cases.
400,000 OFWs repatriated
The government has sent home more than 400,000 overseas Filipino workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
DOLE said that based on the report of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), 410,211 OFWs have arrived in the country as of Jan. 16.
They have been quarantined and cleared of COVID.
OWWA said 8,273 OFWs were transported to their provinces last week from 7,895 the preceding week.
“After their ordeal in their country of origin, our dear OFWs were all provided accommodation, food, transportation, and cash assistance by the government. Now, they are safely home with their families,” Bello said.
The DOLE said 60,000 to 80,000 more OFWs are estimated to be repatriated this year.
“Those awaiting repatriation form part of the over 520,000 OFWs displaced by the COVID pandemic that continues to plague economies around the globe,” the Labor department said.
The government started transporting OFWs en masse last May after COVID tests and quarantine.
DOLE has been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program to OFWs whose incomes were affected by the pandemic, both on-site and those stranded in the country.