MANILA - The government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is studying the possibility of including overseas Filipino workers in the restrictions it has imposed on travelers arriving in the Philippines to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variant, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Tuesday.
“Pinag-aaralan pa po. Kailangan natin dyan ng recommendation ng Department of Health, gaano talaga kaposible yung pagiging carrier ng ating OFW 'pag galing doon sa mga countries where COVID variant is very high like United Kingdom,” Bello told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(It is still being studied. We need a recommendation from the Department of Health based on the possibility of OFWs from countries where COVID variant is very high like United Kingdom, becoming carriers.)
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier urged OFWs planning to come home to consider postponing their trip as the government widened its list of countries with travel restrictions due to the fast-spreading new COVID-19 variant.
The travel restrictions imposed by the Philippines on foreign nationals coming from 20 countries and Hong Kong is effective until Jan. 15.
“Isa sa dahilan yun na pinag-aaralan ng IATF na baka pwedeng isama na rin sila sa restriction. Baka sila yung magdadala dahil halimbawa, yung OFW galing UK, o kaya galing sa Germany, yun ang matindi ang coronavirus variant doon, so the possibility na sila yung magta-transmit,” Bello said.
(The IATF is studying the possibility of including OFWs in the restriction. There is a possibility that OFWs from countries with the coronavirus variant like UK and Germany, could transmit the virus here.)
The existing policy allows Filipino nationals from the 21 territories to enter the country, subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine, notwithstanding a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result.
“Halimbawa, yung OFW, uuwi lang for vacation. Pagdating dito, 14 days siyang maka-quarantine. Pagdating sa probinsiya niya, baka ika-quarantine pa siya. Kaya medyo, idi-discourage na lang natin sila kung ganun lang din plano nila,” Bello said.
(For example, an OFW returning home for a vacation needs to undergo 14-day quarantine here. And then, they may be subjected to another round of quarantine when they arrive in their home town. That’s why, we try to discourage them if that is their plan.)
OFWs from areas outside of the identified 21 territories are exempted from the quarantine requirement.
Bello suggested in late December to President Rodrigo Duterte the inclusion of OFWs in the travel restriction policy, saying "it is reported by our labor attachés, Mr. President, that some of our OFWs, especially in UK, have been contaminated by this variant COVID-19."
Duterte rejected the proposal.
Bello said some 1,000 to 3,500 OFWs arrive in the country every day.
As of Tuesday, he said the government was able to repatriate a total of 396,000 OFWs. The government expects around 70,000 to 80,000 more to come home this year.