By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
There was no directive from President Rodrigo Duterte to repatriate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from areas affected by the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in Wuhan, China, Malacañang said on Sunday.
“Wala tayong narinig na ganoong patakaran si Presidente (We have not heard such policy from the President),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo told dzIQ, when asked if the Philippine government is eyeing repatriating Filipinos from areas with confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV.
The 2019-nCov, a new strain of coronavirus that began spreading at a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, has started spreading around the world.
Confirmed cases of the new coronavirus have been reported in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, France, and the United States, stoking fears of a global pandemic.
There have been a total of 1,975 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV, while another 2,684 suspected cases have also been recorded.
The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in 56 deaths as of Saturday.
Panelo said the government could not force Filipinos residing and working in areas with confirmed cases of the fatal coronavirus to return home.
“‘Yung mga Pilipino na nasa ibang bansa (The Filipinos went abroad). They’re working there. If they feel na they’re safe, hindi mo mapapaalis yun doon kasi livelihood nila yun (you can’t force them to leave because that’s their livelihood),” Panelo said.
“At saka syempre yung lugar na pinagtatrabahuhan nila, meron ding mga ginagawa ang mga authorities doon para hindi kumalat (And of course, local authorities of countries where they work are doing their best to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus),” he added.
The Palace official also advised overseas Filipinos to follow the strict precautionary measures imposed by host countries against 2019-nCoV.
Coronavirus is a “large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV,” the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
WHO also cautioned that coronavirus can be transmitted between animals and people.
Amid the 2019-nCoV outbreak, Panelo assured anew that the Philippine government is doing its best to ensure the safety of Filipinos.
Sending back passengers from Wuhan is among the measures being undertaken by the current administration, Panelo noted.
“Every time there is a spread of any disease in any country, that creates apprehension and concern. It’s government of any country that is subjected to undertake measures that will keep the citizens from harm,” he said. (PNA)