THE government will repatriate from Macau more than 100 overseas Filipinos, as well as active members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) within this week, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed Tuesday, March 3.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said 148 overseas Filipinos and 48 Owwa members are set to be repatriated from Macau via separate chartered flights, and they will undergo the prescribed screening and quarantine measures being implemented by the Philippine government.
He said in a press briefing Wednesday, March 4, that those who have symptoms of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will not be allowed to board the flights, stressing only those who are asymptomatic will be repatriated.
Duque clarified that these Filipinos will be considered as persons under monitoring (PUMs) and they will be home quarantined. He said the local government units, who will help in the monitoring of the PUMs, will be given a list of the repatriates.
In case the repatriates develop symptoms of Covid-19 while on home quarantine, they will be brought to the DOH's referral hospitals in their respective hometowns for treatment and testing, Duque added.
The repatriation was earlier raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), noting the number of Filipinos who had lost their jobs in Macau, as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak in these countries.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on his official Twitter account Tuesday, March 3, that he wanted the repatriation of the overseas Filipinos done immediately.
The repatriation was agreed upon by the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IAFT-EID) Tuesday, March 3, when it also announced the partial lifting of travel restrictions to South Korea.
The IATF said Tuesday that Filipinos heading to South Korea, except to North Gyeongsang Province including Daegu City and Cheongdo County, will be allowed to travel provided that they sign a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved.
“The IATF has resolved to partially lift travel restrictions to South Korea as their government has implemented stringent infection control measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. South Korea has also reported a low case fatality rate of only 0.5 percent, and the successful containment of local transmission to only certain areas,” Duque said.
The IATF also agreed to expand travel exemptions allowing dependents of permanent residents of South Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau to travel to these areas as long as they also sign a risk-acknowledgement declaration.
“The IATF-EID is closely monitoring the spread of Covid-19 cases in other countries and is regularly updating its travel restrictions based on standardized risk assessment indicators. We are working nonstop to ensure that our kababayans are protected from Covid-19 no matter where they are,” Duque assured.
He also announced that to date, the Philippines has not recorded any cases of local transmission of Covid-19.
"The WHO director general has cited the Philippines as among the few countries in the world which have not recorded any new cases of Covid-19 for more than two weeks," he said, but added that the DOH will still continue to be vigilant. "We cannot afford to let our guards down."
The Philippines only has three confirmed cases of Covid-19 and as of Wednesday, March 4, the DOH said a total of 39 patients have been placed under investigation for the coronavirus disease. (LMY/PR)