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Non-OFWs returning to Phl to pay for mandatory test, quarantine

20 May 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Non-OFWs will have to pay P3.5k for the swab test, and for quarantining in a hotel while waiting for the result

Filipinos returning from overseas, many of them stranded by lockdowns, have raised concern about a new government regulation requiring them to undergo, and pay for, mandatory swab tests and quarantine accommodation when they return to the Philippines.

The new requirement was issued on May 11 by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Covid-19 but has circulated widely recently because of concerns from returning nationals about the potentially huge costs involved.

Apart from paying for the swab test which reportedly costs Php3,500, they will also have to pay for staying in a hotel designated as a quarantine facility.
A list of hotels for this purpose has been uploaded on the Department of Tourism website, but it will also be provided to them on their arrival at the airport.

The advisory says the test result should be out in 3-5 days. If the test turns out negative, they will be given a certificate to this effect and allowed to go home. But if they test positive, the Bureau of Quarantine will take over the monitoring of their treatment.

The advisory, posted on the Facebook page of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)- MIAA, said the same procedure should be followed by arriving airline crew members.

Given the recent experience of some overseas Filipino workers who have been forced to remain in their quarantine facility for more than a month because of the delay in the release of their test result, many returning residents are worried about the potential cost.

Some of those who posted on the NAIA Facebook page said this would be an additional burden on Filipinos who already had to go through a lot after being stranded in a foreign country because of the pandemic.

One asked if senior citizens could just be allowed to observe self-quarantine at home while waiting for their swab test, instead of being held indefinitely in a hotel room or some other quarantine facility.

Another said she was coming home with three minor kids and a senior citizen, and also asked to be exempted from being made to stay in hotel.

Still another revealed a sad truth: that it’s not true that the test result is released within 3-5 days. She said her minor son who has health problems, had been in quarantine for 7 days after returning from his studies abroad. But there was still no word on when he would get his test result.

Administrators of the airport site assured them their concerns would be relayed to the proper authorities.

In comparison, Hong Kong also requires a swab test and self-quarantine for returning residents, but no one is asked to pay for anything, including for hospitalization in case they are found infected.

Those who are put in quarantine facilities are also provided with all that they need at no cost.
OFWs get tested for free, but they are put in a designated quarantine facility while waiting for the result 

In the Philippines, only returning overseas Filipino workers were until this time, required  to undergo tests and stay in a quarantine facility, but all for free.

Their tests are paid for by PhilHealth, and their meals and accommodation by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration for land-based OFWs, and by the Maritime Industry Authorities for those who are sea-based.

Despite this, hundreds have complained about their extended stay in quarantine facilities  tightly guarded by Philippine Coast Guard officers, saying they have been isolated long enough, and should be allowed to go home. 

At least eight have escaped recently from a hotel in Pasay City where they were quarantined, even before their test results could come out.

One was eventually found to have the coronavirus, and was tracked down to his home in Quezon City, and brought to a treatment facility.

The Coast Guard said all the escapees would be charged with violating quarantine laws.

As of May 19, the Department of Transport said a total of 461 OFWs are in various quarantine facilities in Metro Manila, including 265 who are in two passenger vessels docked off Pier 15 in Manila.

Since Apr 14, 294 OFWs have completed their quarantine and were allowed to go home, while 93 others are now waiting to be taken home to their home provinces or cities.

An additional 199 are currently awaiting their swab test result.

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