The Philippines will still allow entry of Filipinos working in countries hit by a new variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Tuesday.
“They will be allowed to come home pero they have to be subjected to the 14-day quarantine. Kahit na pagdating nila, na-swab sila, negative sila, they still have to undergo the 14-day quarantine,” DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in an online press conference.
The Labor Secretary added that this has been in accordance of President Duterte’s order to allow OFWs to return home for the Christmas holidays.
As added precaution, Bello also said that OFWs who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 will still have to undergo the mandatory quarantine.
The new COVID-19 variant, which appears to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, currently shows no evidence that it causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. This variant was first detected in September 2020 and is now highly prevalent in London and southeast England. It has since been detected in numerous countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.
The Philippines initially imposed a travel ban on flights from the United Kingdom to prevent possible transmission.
On Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to impose a travel ban to January 15 from 20 countries with the COVID-19 variant found in the UK:
- Hong Kong
- the Netherlands
- South Africa
- South Korea
At least 60,000 to 100,000 OFWs are expected to come home from these countries, according to Bello.
As of Dec. 29, Bello said over 388,000 displaced OFWs have been repatriated to the Philippines since the start of the pandemic.