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No exemptions from 14-day quarantine, says Consulate

25 February 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Consul General Raly Tejada says the 14-day quarantine for vacationing Filipinos remains enforced

After Manila’s travel ban to Hong Kong was lifted for Filipino residents and migrant workers, a new problem has emerged for those who now plan on going home for a holiday.

They all want to know if the 14-day quarantine for those entering the Philippines from Hong Kong means they cannot come back to the city until after they have stayed in the country that long.

The answer, says Consul General Raly Tejada, is yes. “14 day it is,” he said in response to a query made on behalf of several would-be travelers, many of them overseas Filipino workers.
That means, all Filipinos who enter the country from Hong Kong while the restriction is in place will not be allowed to fly out until after they have remained there for the required period.

The 14-day standard quarantine period is meant to ensure that Filipinos and permanent visa holders in the Philippines arriving from Hong Kong, China and Macau do not have the dreaded novel coronavirus or Covid-19.

This reasoning is being questioned by many of those desperate to make a quick trip home, pointing out that Hong Kong has a much lower rate of infection compared to other countries where the Philippines has not imposed a travel ban.
As of today, there are nearly 80,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, mostly in China. But the spread has recently accelerated in countries like Japan and South Korea, which each has more than 800 cases. Italy has 152, and Singapore, 90. No ban has been imposed by Manila in any of these countries except China.
Self-quarantine card issued to Filipinos arriving from China, HK and Macau
Despite this, the Philippines has remained rigid in its requirement that all Filipinos arriving from China and its SARs stay in the country for 14 days, even those who just want to go home for emergency reasons, like attending a family member’s funeral.

Told that some of those who want to go home are begging for an exemption just so they could see a relative one last time, ConGen Tejada said he did not have that authority. Nor can he advise them on what to do. “Wala din akong ma-advice. The 14-day quarantine remains ,” he says.
Among those who sent a message to the Consulate to ask if she could go home for just a week to attend her brother’s funeral is Del, who said she was granted only that short break by her employer who has two young children to look after.

Del was upset to hear that a week’s vacation won’t do. Her frustration is reportedly shared by her employer, who said the country’s policy makers are “crazy” for imposing the restriction even for those who don’t show any sign of infection.

“Hay, libing sana ng kapatid ko sa Sabado. Naawa naman ako sa amo ko kung two weeks ang uwi ko (kasi) may maliit na baby at 2 years old na alaga ako,” Del said.

The 14-day self-quarantine was among the conditions laid down by the Philippine government when it imposed a travel ban on Feb 2 in and out of China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Under the travel restrictions, only Filipinos and permanent visa holders in the Philippines can enter the country if they are flying in from Hong Kong, Macau and China. Foreigners are barred, even if they had just stopped over in the three places, or had visited them within 14 days prior to flying to the Philippines.

The ban was partially lifted on Feb. 18, but only to allow Filipino residents and OFWs departing for Hong Kong and Macau. The inbound restrictions remained.

In an advisory on Feb. 19, the Consulate reposted an advisory from the Department of Foreign Affairs which said in part: “There is no travel ban on Filipino nationals and permanent residents returning from China and its SARs however, returning travelers will be subjected to a 14-day self-quarantine upon their return.”

The news that the ban had been partially lifted prompted many excited OFWs in Hong Kong to start planning their vacation to the Philippines, including those who are looking forward to attending their children’s graduation next month.

Initially, their main concern was whether they’d be allowed to go out of the house during the self-quarantine, but their anxiety was quickly allayed by a number of those who just recently arrived in the Philippines.

Unless they show symptoms of being sick, they are free to go out, say those who are already in the country. It is up to them if they want to hole up in the house or mingle outside, but they must make sure they remain healthy.

But the 14-day stay is now proving to be the bigger concern.

OFWs in anti-virus protective gear imposed by their employers

Not a few OFWs have posted on the Facebook group, DWC Help, asking if the compulsory stay won’t be waived, saying they already have made bookings for a vacation with a shorter duration.

Said Rhealynm, “Ang iniisip lang naming ay yung pagbalik? Paano kung hindi namin matapos ang 14 days? Katulad ko, 12 days lang ako. May nagsabi kasi na dapat tapusin ang 14 days dahil kung hindi hindi ka pababalikin ng Hong Kong.”

Sherlyn said: “Direct flight ako sa Davao. Yun din nga ang iniisip ko, paano pabalik if my 14 days quarantine? She then suggested that those who can’t complete the required stay should ask the airline for free rebooking or refund “kasi di naman natin kagustuhan ang 14 days quarantine na iyan.”

Tessa, another would-be traveler, commented: “Uuwi ka magbakasyon, tapos 1week or 2 weeks ka sa Pilipinas, tapos i-quarantine ka pa. Ano na ang mangyari sa bakasyon mo? Pagtapos mo ng quarantine, balik na na ulit sa trabaho mo, ano yun?”

For some, going on restricted vacation isn’t worth the additional worry. Said Lynnedalle: “Kung ako ang tatanungin, ipagpaliban ko muna ang bakasyon ko, or bayaran na lang ni amo ang annual leave mo…kaysa sa ganyan, mag-quarantine ka ng 14 days kahit sa bahay lang, hindi mo ma enjoy ang vacation mo. So para ka lang nagsabi ng hello and bye sa family mo.”

Many simply hope the quarantine will be lifted soon so they can reunite with their family as before, in peace and with Covid-19 far from their minds.
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