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No forced quarantine for Filipinos flying from HK to Mla, officials clarify

19 March 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Filipinos arriving from HK will still be put under 14-day home quarantine
A Philippine government task force on containing the spread of Covid-19 has categorically denied that all Filipinos flying from China, Hong Kong and Macau, will be put in quarantine camps on arriving in Manila.

The misinformation that caused renewed stress on Filipino migrant workers and residents in Hong Kong, was first brought up during at least two public briefings made by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles in Manila, and was picked up by a national daily.

Nograles had said: “Filipinos abroad can return to the Philippines anytime, including their foreign spouse and children. Other permanent residents of the Philippines may also return. All returning Filipinos and permanent residents from China, Hong Kong and Macau shall be subjected to a 14-day quarantine in a quarantine facility. All other returning Filipinos and permanent residents arriving in Luzon shall comply with mandatory home quarantine.”
His statement was immediately cast aside by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases during a meeting earlier today, Mar. 19, in Manila.

According to Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration who sits with the IATF, Secretary Nograles’ statement came from “a matrix produced by an unknown source.”

He clarified that the memo issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on the community quarantine only referred to “mandatory or self quarantine, not quarantine in a quarantine facility.”
Cacdac added, “ Let’s stick with the memo po. That stands as the rule. When a Hong Kong OFW (and resident) comes home, s/he cannot be forced to go to a quarantine facility, unless s/he exhibits Covid-19 symptoms at the airport.”

Consul General Raly Tejada who also expressed surprise at Nograles’ statement, said he had also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to clarify the issue.
 
Nograles' mistake caused additional anxiety to Filipinos living and working in HK
The dire pronouncement had sparked momentary concern among some vigilant Filipino residents in Hong Kong, who were just recovering from panic caused by a 72-hour deadline imposed on Mar 17 for those intending to fly out of the Philippines.

The restriction was lifted the next day, but only after thousands of travelers had swarmed the international airports in Manila and New Clark City in the north, in a mad dash to fly out before the entire Luzon island was totally locked down.
As of Mar 18, the standing rule is that all Filipinos who are either migrant workers or residents abroad, as well as all foreigners, will be able to fly out of Luzon at any time during the “expanded community quarantine.”

Only Filipino tourists will not be allowed to travel abroad.

For inbound travel, the self-quarantine restriction will remain only for Filipinos and Philippine permanent residents coming in from China, Hong Kong and Macau. Mandatory quarantine is imposed on those coming in from virus-plagued cruise ships in Japan and the United States.
Airports in Manila and Clark will remain open, despite an earlier announcement that they would be shut starting on Mar 20. However, getting in and out of the airports remains a big concern, as all public transportation has been halted.
 
OWWA chief Cacdac moved to correct the wrong pronouncement
To help OFWs bound to be hit hard by the lockdown of Luzon, OWWA has initiated a “hatid-sundo” project for those traveling to and from NAIA airport in Manila. The shuttle will cover six routes, extending to as far north as Dau in Pampanga, and Calamba in Laguna, with several pick-up or drop-off points along the way.

OWWA guidelines say that each vehicle used for picking up the OFW traveler will prominently display the name of the agency, and will have a driver and OWWA staff on board. Both shall be in full protective gear, with masks and gloves, while the OFW passengers will each be given a mask. Each vehicle will be sterilized before and after each journey.

Only OFWs will be allowed to board the vehicles that will take them to any of the three terminals of NAIA. Their friends or relatives will “not be prioritized,” though this indicates there could be some exemptions. Social distancing will be observed strictly aboard the vehicle.



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