42,000 returning Filipino workers may overwhelm isolation facilities, says official

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MANILA (The Philippine Star) — The 42,000 overseas Filipino workers or OFWs arriving to the country in the coming weeks, amid Covid-19 pandemic, may overwhelm the country’s isolation facilities, Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez warned.

In an Inter-Agency Task Force meeting aired Wednesday midnight, Galvez, also National Task Force on Covid-19 chief implementer, explained that some 27,000 OFWs are already isolated at different hubs in Manila.

“There are 42,000 others arriving his coming May and June,” Galvez said.

The government previously said all returning migrant workers would undergo a Covid-19 test. Those who tested negative will be given clearances from the Bureau of Quarantine and would be allowed to leave the isolation facility.

Galvez said the Philippine Red Cross performed more than 22,000 tests for returning migrant workers, and 465 of them tested positive with the coronavirus disease.

But Galvez assured President Rodrigo Duterte that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Department of Transportation are coordinating to immediately transport back home OFWs who tested negative, with the help of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration or OWWA and the Maritime Industry Authority.

Some OFWs complained of their prolonged period of stay in quarantine facilities while waiting for their Covid-19 test results.

The administration on Tuesday said they will look into their concerns and ordered OWWA to submit an inventory of OFWs in quarantine facilities and updates on their Covid-19 tests.

The coast guard reported last weekend that eight OFWs waiting for results of their Covid-19 test escaped their isolation facilities to go home.

One of them tested positive for Covid-19, while the rest tested negative. Authorities are locating the eight who will face complaints for violating quarantine protocols.

Data from the Philippine Coast Guard showed that as of May 19, 30,918 OFWs underwent RT-PCR testing, the gold standard for Covid-19 test. More than 12,000 tested negative and were allowed to go home.

“A total of 11,000 other names are pending for release in the next days,” PCG said.

“Approximately 7,000 swab samples remain at the Philippine Red Cross for analysis,” it added.