May 23, 2020 – Overseas workers who are placed under a 14-day quarantine period should be sent home within five days after they tested negative for coronavirus, the labor secretary promised on Saturday.
Silvestre Bello III said the government must speed up the testing process because some of the overseas workers, including seafarers, have been staying for over a month in quarantine facilities, and may suffer mental disorder due to prolonged isolation.
He said thousands of overseas workers are due to arrive home and would need housing facilities for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
“After going through the process of quarantine, swabbing, and other forms of testing, kailangan may definite process, definite timeline na kailangan after those processes, makakaalis na sila,” said Bello in the Laging Handa virtual briefing on Saturday, “The IATF committed that after the 14-day quarantine, in about 5 days makakalabas na ang ating mga OFWs.”
There were reports many of the OFWs staying in quarantine facilities for almost a month because they were still waiting for their results and certificates.
Many of the workers are waiting in more than 20 cruise ships anchored in Manila Bay and many more vessels are arriving in Manila to bring home displaced seafarers after cruise ship operators stopped operations due to the pandemic.
Land-based workers from the Middle East, Europe and other Asian countries were also returning home after they lost their jobs due to lockdowns abroad.
The government said there are delays in the processing of test results due to inadequate supply of test kits and slow encoding of results, resulting in huge backlogs.
In the IATF Resolution No. 38 dated May 22, OFWs who have been issued a certificate of completion of a 14-day facility-based quarantine, those who may be required to undergo a mandatory 14-day home quarantine, or those who are issued with travel authority upon testing positive for COVID-19 whichever is earlier, shall be granted unhampered transit across zones en route to their final destination in the Philippines. No other requirement shall be imposed by LGUs in this regard.
More than 40,000 workers had returned and more than 200,000 are expected to go home. About 10-12 million Filipinos work and live abroad, sending home about $33.5 billion in 2019.
Bello said the labor department has provided $200 cash assistance to all returning overseas workers. He says the department has 2.5-billion pesos remaining to give to OFWs who were not able to work during the pandemic. Around 130,000 overseas workers were previously given cash aid, at 10,000 pesos each, amounting to 1.3-billion pesos.
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