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Misery grips OFWs hit by China travel ban

05 February 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap
If you're flying to Cebu but are not from the province, be ready for forced quarantine
There appears to be no end to the tales of woe from Filipinos, especially migrant workers, who have been affected by the travel restrictions to China imposed by the Philippine government on Feb. 2.

From being turned away from their flights to being threatened with termination, to seeing their hopes of witnessing their child’s upcoming graduation crushed, the stories are endless.

Yesterday resulted in an even sadder story, that of a Filipina mother rushing home to look after her daughter who has dengue, but was unexpectedly put under quarantine in Cebu,  where her Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong landed.


Under guidelines issued by the Department of Health, all Filipinos arriving from China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau, need only to undergo self-quarantine in their own homes on arrival in the Philippines.

But in the case of Cora O., she and three other non-Cebu residents on the flight were told to proceed to the Eversley Childs Sanitarium in Mandaue City, where they were to be quarantined for 14 days.

Cora is not alone in her grief, for two others being held with her had flown home only to bury family members who had passed on. Now they aren't allowed to go anywhere for two weeks, nor receive visitors from outside.

Most other passengers on the plane were hoping to stay for only a week to be with their loved ones.


Cora’s friend, Rea Ottara of the Filipina Migrant Workers Union, said only a routine temperature and blood pressure check was carried on each passenger aboard the aircraft, but nothing significant was apparently found.

But on arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International airport, all 10 passengers were put in a separate queue. They were all taken to the Sanitarium but the 6 Cebu residents were released. The four others were told they were being quarantined in line with existing health protocols.

In a Facebook post which she subsequently deleted, Cora said, “Quarantine is real but sad to say that it’s unfair. We’re 10 passengers on board Cathay Pacific but only 4 passengers including me have to be quarantined. The other six passengers are free to go home because they live in Cebu…so sad on our side.
Cora with her luggage beside the Sanitarium
She added, “I need to go home coz my daughter is confined in the hospital with dengue.”

Cora’s family lives in nearby Tubigon in Bohol province.
She was among only 10 passengers on board the 8:40am flight to Cebu on Feb. 4, and all of them were Filipinos. Under the ban imposed by the Manila government, all foreign nationals flying from China, Hong Kong and Macau, are not allowed to enter the Philippines.

Despite the tense situation in Hong Kong brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, Cora was initially upbeat. In a Facebook post she made at 8:06am, just before boarding her flight, she said: “Boarding time…Go home for good…To God be the glory.”

It didn’t take long for her joy to turn to sadness because of the forced quarantine, and then concern when told by a doctor that word had gotten around town that one of those held in the sanitarium had coronavirus.

Ottara, said: “Di niya alam kung paano kumalat ang ganung balita dahil vital signs lang naman ang kinukuha sa kanila every now and then.”

She added that other than being forced to remain in quarantine, the OFWs  are being treated well, with each being put in a clean isolation room and fed well, although they are not allowed visitors.

The number of people quarantined in the Sanitarium has reportedly grown since the four were taken there early yesterday, but it is not clear where the new arrivals had come from.

Meantime, an appeal for humanitarian consideration on their behalf was sent to the administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Hans Cacdac.

The isolated OFWs are hoping that with his help, they could be released, even for self-quarantine at home, just so they could see their loved ones again soon.

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