Government prepares for repatriation of 40,000 OFWs to stem 2nd wave Covid-19 spread

By Samuel P. Medenilla

THE government is now taking additional precautions with the looming repatriation of 40,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to prevent a possible second wave of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in the country up to next month.

In an online press briefing on Wednesday, the chief implementer of the government’s national policy on Covid-19 Carlito Galvez said they will prioritize the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for the arriving OFWs to ensure they will be free from Covid-19.

“We are preparing to regulate [the arrival] of inbound passengers, who are OFWs, to stop what we are calling second wave [outbreak],” Galvez said.

Also part of their regulation is the weeklong suspension, until May 8, of all inbound flights in the country to give the government time to decongest its quarantine facilities in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Currently, Galvez said there are 23,480 OFWs staying in hotels and accommodations facilitated by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) so they could complete their mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Of these, 6,738 are seafarers, while the remaining 6,742 are land-based OFWs.

He said another 44,724 OFWs are expected to return to the country this month up to June.

Ongoing mass testing

IN a radio interview, OWWA Administrator Hans J. Cacdac said the government is now rushing the 7,000 of the over 23,000 under quarantine to go through RT-PCR testing, too so they could steadily decongest the quarantine sites and provide new accommodations to additional repatriated OFWs.

The target is lower compared to the Department of Transportation figure of 16,000, and of Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) Vivencio “Vince” Dizon of 25,000. Dizon is the deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force Covid-19.

Cacdac said at least 2,000 quarantined OFWs were tested in their designated accommodations in Batangas on Tuesday.

Galvez expressed concern over the outcome of the tests since initial reports showed 19 of them might be infected with Covid-19.

“So we are still waiting for the official report of the Philippine Red Cross [on the testing] and we will see,” Galvez said.

Galvez said they will allow international airports in the country to reopen by Friday after the mass testing of OFWs is completed.

“But we will manage it to 400 to 500 at least so we could manage it,” Galvez said.

The government, he explained, will have a hard time “controlling” quarantined OFWs in Metro Manila if their numbers will reach over 30,000.

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