32 OFWs, gov't team from Wuhan undergoing quarantine in Capas - DOH
Some 32 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including an infant, were repatriated in the country on Sunday from Wuhan City, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei, China.
The Department of Health (DOH), together with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), sent eight fully protected personnel to Wuhan via a chartered flight on Saturday night to fetch the Filipinos who signified their interest to return home.
According to DOH, the team, along with OFWs, arrived at Clark Air Base, Pampanga around 6:59 am on Sunday and they immediately boarded a bus that brought them to Athlete’s Village in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac.
The Health agency said the OFWs underwent three levels of screening before they were allowed to return to the country.
“First, before boarding the plane?individuals were screened as to whether they are symptomatic (has fever, cough and colds) or asymptomatic (does not have any signs and symptoms). Only those asymptomatic individuals were allowed to board,” it said.
“Second, while on board or during the flight, individuals were closely monitored for the occurrence of any signs and symptoms. In the event that an individual got sick, he or she is separated from asymptomatic individuals and is placed at the back of the plane, leaving the asymptomatic individuals in front of the plane,” the DOH said.
“Third, upon landing, individuals were again assessed whether symptomatic or asymptomatic; in case there has been sick, these individuals will be directly sent to hospitals via the ambulance, while those found to be asymptomatic will be sent to quarantine facility,” it added.
The DOH said all 32 repatriates landed safely and they did not show signs and symptoms of any virus, hence, they were all sent to New Clark City for close observation and monitoring for 14 days.
“The DOH, in coordination with Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Provincial Government of Tarlac spearheaded by Governor Susan Yap, ensures that the repatriates are well accommodated and closely monitored; all basic necessities were provided, including hygiene kits and meals,” the Health department said.
The DOH?Central Luzon Center for Health Development (DOH-CLCHD) has declared code blue among all government and provincial hospitals, provincial, city, and municipal health offices, and other health facilities in the region to immediately cater the medical needs of repatriated OFWs.
In case an individual during his or her stay in the quarantine facility suddenly shows signs and symptoms of the virus, the DOH would deploy medical teams to immediately assess and facilitate his or her transfer to hospital for close monitoring.
“The DOH will be taking charge of the management, coordination, and logistics of the entire quarantine process. Rest assured that repatriated OFWs will be attended to and treated with utmost care. Regular monitoring will be conducted to ensure their health and safety,” the DOH said.
Meanwhile, the DFA said the team who went to China would also undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Initially, there were over 50 OFWs who expressed interest to be repatriated to the Philippines.
The DFA, however, said "things and circumstances" changed on the ground.
“For one, a family of four had a change of heart. For another, the facilities in Wuhan were constantly improving with the building of two new hospitals to cater to nCoV patients, including persons under investigation and persons under monitoring,” the DFA said in a message to reporters.
It added some Filipinos thought that it would be better to stay in China than undergo the 14-day quarantine, which would only hamper their activities and render them useless.
“Add to that the fact that our people cannot return to their work and their lives in Hubei because of the Philippine government restriction of not being allowed to travel to any part of China from the Philippines,” it said.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered last week to ban entry of foreigners coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau. Due to the travel ban, OFWs bound for China were not allowed to return there and the local carriers here also temporarily halted their flights to China and its special administrative regions.
Asked if there would be another batch of OFWs who would be fetched from Wuhan, the DFA said it depends on the demand.
“Also, please be reminded that the repatriation was organized mainly for the Filipinos and their families in Wuhan or Hubei because of the existing lockdown where they couldn’t move even if they wanted to. In all the other parts of China, freedom of movement is still available subject to the Chinese guidelines on disease containment and subject to Chinese procedures for Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) clearances,” it added.
Prior to the repatriation of the 32 Filipinos, the government has estimated that there were around 300 Filipinos in Hubei, including 150 in Wuhan.
On Saturday the local government of Capas conducted a silent protest after they were not informed about the use of New Clark City as quarantine site for repatriated OFWs.
But on Sunday, the Capas LGU said national interest prevails after DOH met them and explained that the OFWs coming to the province were not sick. After the meeting, the local government allowed the first batch to stay in New Clark City.
In an interview over Radyo Inquirer, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the outcry of residents and local officials from Capas was only natural but he reminded them that the quarantine area is owned by the national government.
Panelo assured the residents nearby the Athlete's Village that all protocols are being implemented for the safety of everyone.
“All protocols are being implemented so that they will not be in danger. Those who arrived were also isolated,” he said.
He added that the government is doing everything as the country’s economy could be affected by the disease.
In a separate radio interview, Vice President Leni Robredo lauded the team who went to Wuhan City to assist the OFWs.
“Eight Filipinos went there (in China), they risked their health and life just to help Filipinos who want to go back. This is a good move for the national government agencies,” she said.
“This is what we are calling for since day one,” Robredo added.
However, she said the administration should properly disseminate information after the Capas LGU complained that it was not informed that the New Clark City would host the repatriates from Wuhan. Ella Dionisio/DMS