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OFWs with Covid-19 being hunted after escaping quarantine in Phl

18 May 2020

By The SUN
 
Arriving OFWs at Manila airport are subjected to strict screening before being sent to quarantine facilities 

An unknown number of overseas Filipino workers who escaped from quarantine facilities and were later found to be infected by Covid-19 are being sought by Philippine authorities.

The information was disclosed by Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo in a interview with Dobol B sa News TV early on May 17. He did not say how many OFWs had escaped, or gave other details.
He merely said the OFWs escaped from hotels and could be with their families already.

“May mga nakatakas diyan sa mga hotel na yan at ang masama nito, lumabas na positive sila…ngayon, nandoon sila sa bahay nila, na kahalubilo ang pamilya, iyong community,” he said.
(There were some who escaped from hotels and what’s worse is that they turned out to be positive for the virus. Now, they’re already at their homes mingling with family members and the community).

Balilo said authorities are now looking for the escapees and are investigating whether hotel staff had helped them escape. Those found liable could be charged with violating the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

He called on quarantined OFWs to be patient and observe procedures to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.  

A dorm-type quarantine center where some OFWs were sent 

In recent weeks, hundreds of OFWs have complained of being detained in quarantine facilities for up to a month already, when they were supposed to be kept there for only 14 days. Many were agitating to be allowed to go home so they could be with their families.

They included dozens of  HK OFWs being held in a resort south of Manila, who sent word about their plight to Consul General Raly Tejada. He in turn said he immediately forwarded their complaint to Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
The holdup appears to be due to the slow release of their Covid test results. While they were subjected to rapid tests at the airport, Coast Guard officials say the process is unreliable, and have now ordered two swab tests for the quarantined OFWs.  

Each of the more than 20,000 OFWs held at the quarantine centers is required to return two negative results before they could be released. The problem is, the result for each test is said to take 3-4 days, and the second test is not administered immediately after the first result is out because of the sheer number of people being tested.

Mass repatriation of OFWs continues as a result of the economic fallout from the pandemic 

Since February this year, tens of thousands of  OFWs who have returned to the Philippines after losing their jobs due to the pandemic have been put under mandatory quarantine in hotels, resorts, ships, and other facilities, with the Coast Guard keeping watch. Even those who go home for a vacation are subjected to the same procedure. 
Early this month, the Manila airport had to be closed to incoming flights while authorities scrambled to decongest quarantine facilities. But about 500 more OFWs from Japan and Britain have been flown home since.

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