Philippines PPE metro train social distancing mass transport covid-19
Empty seats on a train separate passengers as part of social distancing rules in Manila, after the lockdown was eased in the Philippine capital on June 1, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Up to 300,000 jobless expatriates Filipino workers are expected to fly home between now and the next three months, Philippine government officials said on Wedensday.

As community quarantine restrictions are gradually eased throughout the country, PCR tests are being ramped up and overseas Filipino workers who test negative are to be released in 72 hours instead of 14 days to curb bottlenecks at quarantine centress, senior government officials told the Philippine News Agency on (June 10, 2020) Wednesday.

OFWs Manila escalator mall covid-19 QUARANTINE
Filipinos who availed general amnesty granted by the Kuwaiti government wait for their flight home at the Kuwait International Airport on April 3, 2020. An estimated 713 Filipino workers in Middle East, Africa tested positive for COVID-19 as government plans to step up targeted COVID-19 tests. (AFP) Image Credit: AFP

As the government scales up COVID-19 testing capacity, testing and tracing are now being seen as the country's primary arsenal to isolate and treat spreaders, including returning overseas Filipino workers.

Government officials urged the people to be "disciplined in adapting to the new normal.” Here's what we know so far about overseas Filipino workers amidst COVID-19:

Q: How many cases COVID-19 cases are there in the Philippines? What's the death toll?

As of June 9, 2020, the total infection count in the Philippines has reached 22,992, according to Department of Health data. The agency said there were 518 additional COVID-19 cases and 99 fresh recoveries. Six new deaths were also reported on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll in the country to 1,017.

Q: How many COVID-19 cases are there among Filipinos abroad?

As of Monday, there were 5,400 COVID-19-infected Filipinos abroad, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). There were 13 new confirmed cases recorded on Monday, which brings the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among overseas Filipinos at 5,405, with the death toll at 371.

Filipinos quarantine returning home 0001 covid-19 OFWs
Filipinos who availed general amnesty granted by the Kuwaiti government wait for their flight home at the Kuwait International Airport on April 3, 2020. An estimated 713 Filipino workers in Middle East, Africa tested positive for COVID-19 as government plans to step up targeted COVID-19 tests. Image Credit: AFP

Q: How many COVID-19 tests are conducted in the Philippines per day?

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the DOH has already conducted an average of 10,000 daily tests during the first week of June.

Q: What quarantine rules apply to returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the moment?

In general, returning OFWS are mandated to immediately undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing upon landing. The following rules currently apply for returnees (as of June 10, 2020, Wednesday). This will be updated with the latest developments).

  1. All returning OFWs are also required to spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival in the country.
  2. They can choose to stay either at government-owned facilities, on passenger ships, or in hotels accredited by the Bureau of Quarantine in Metro Manila, the national capital region.
  3. To free-up room for those set to return and unclog quarantine centres swamped, Defence Secretary Deflin Lorenzana, working with the maritime industry and other agencies, said thehy allow the "quick release" and return to home provinces of OFWs testing negative for COVID-19.

All returning OFWs are also required to spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival in the country.

As of June 2, 2020, a total of 7,241 Luzon-bound OFWs
OFWs who tested negative of COVID-19 wait at a bus terminal in Manila. As of June 2, 2020, a total of 7,241 Luzon-bound OFWs were served by OWWA at the PITX. On its 9th day of transportation assistance, the "Hatid Probinsya para sa mga OFWs" program has already dispatched a total of 287 buses to various drop off points in Luzon. Image Credit: OWWA / Twitter

To free-up room for those set to return and unclog quarantine centres swamped, Defence Secretary Deflin Lorenzana, working with the maritime industry and other agencies, said thehy allow the "quick release" and return to home provinces of OFWs testing negative for COVID-19.

As of May 22, out of 22,432 repatriated OFWs tested with the help of the Philippine Red Cross, 465 tested positive for the coronavirus.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said some 13,000 repatriated OFWs who had tested negative for COVID-19 would soon be reunited with their families.

As of June 22, There 47,536 OFWs who yielded negative result in the RT-PCR testing for COVID-19. according to the Philippine Coast Guard.

Q: What's the procedure for COVID-19 testing of OFWs?

Upon arrival in Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), repatriates undergo the following:

  1. Automatic thermal scanning
  2. RT-PCR testing
  3. Transported to designated hotels for quarantine

The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs work around the clock to help distressed Filipinos from overseas.

The DFA has repatriated 28,589 Filipinos as of May 22, 2020. Based on the latest DFA report, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among Filipinos abroad was 2,461.

285

number of OFWs who died of COVID-19

At least 285 had died as a result of contracting the virus.

Among the virus-positive OFWs abroad, 752 were in Europe, 713 in the Middle East and Africa, 544 in the Americas, and 452 in the Asia-Pacific region.

Q: Is Clark International Airport open for repatriation flights?

Yes. The government has also opened more gateways, such as the Clark International Airport, to welcome repatriated OFWs.

Recruitment and manning agencies are allowed to choose the lab they want to process PCR tests.

According to a government spokesperson, this would allow competition among labs to reduce the cost and speed up tests. “Whoever can do it efficiently and at the cheapest price, we have given the OFWs and their principles liberty to choose,” Harry Roque, President Duterte’s spokesperson told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday (June 10, 2020).

Philippines
Personnel in protective suits, used due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, prepare to move a body inside the crematory chambers at a crematorium facility in Manila on April 29, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Q: Can OFWS go to their hotels immediately upon landing?

Yes. According to new quarantine protocols unveiled on Wednesday (June 10, 2020), OFWs can opt to go straight to their hotels, which are being used as quarantine facilities — unless they prefer being tested at airports.

Roque said the government, meanwhile, continues to establish more laboratories that can do the COVID-19 testing and maximize its testing capacity.

“We’re still aggressively pursuing the establishment of more laboratories because we don’t have enough. It’s not just the lab capacity, it’s the actual testing being done. We have to improve not just the capacity but also to make sure that they all have supplies so that they can maximise their capacities,” he said.

Q: How many tests can be done, how many labs are conducting PCR tests in the country?

According to the PNA report, there are a total of 52 laboratories, including 33 operated by the government. Taken together, these labs can do 41,990 COVID-19 tests per day, according to Vivencio Dizon, National Policy Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer

The largest private-sector facility is run by the Philippine Red Cross, which can perform up to 12,000 tests per day.

Dizon said the government is looking to increase the testing capacity to 50,000 tests per day by June.

Q: How many OFWs are expected to fly home?

Around 300,000 OFWs whose jobs have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to arrive in the next three months, according to Dizon.

300,000

number of OFWs whose jobs were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic expected to fly home from June to August 2020

Q: I am flying home. How can I get a quarantine certificate?

The Philippines’ Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) has launched a new portal for OFWs who have landed back home to have their quarantine certificates processed online for those who have completed their 14-day quarantine.

Earlier, one of the problems pointed out by OFWs was the length of time that it took for the BOQ to issue the certificate. With this new development, OFWs can now log in at https://quarantinecertificate.com to request a copy of their BOQ quarantine certificate which is the OFW’s proof that they have completed their mandatory quarantine at a government-assigned facility.

Q: What are the latest quarantine rules in the Philippines?

From June 1, Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Central Visayas as well as the cities of Baguio, Iloilo, Zamboanga and Davao, and the provinces of Pangasinan and Albay transitioned to general community quarantine (GCQ).

The rest of the country, meanwhile, were under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ),

Q: ECQ, GCQ, MECQ, MGCQ: What’s the difference?

ECQ means enhanced community quarantine. On March 16, 2020, the Philippine government imposed an ECQ in Luzon (including its associated islands). ECQ is effectively a total lockdown: it restricts the movement of the population except for necessity, work, and health circumstances, in response to the growing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

Additional lockdown restrictions mandated the temporary closure of non-essential shops and businesses. The ECQ was originally set to last until April 12, but President Duterte accepted the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to extend it until April 30. On May 1, it was extended again until May 15 but only on selected places which are considered high-risk areas

GCQ means general community quarantine. It is a less strict quarantine imposed on low-risk to moderate-risk areas. On May 12, the government announced that moderate risk places are going to be placed under GCQ.

MGCQ means “modified ECQ”: Metro Manila and Laguna in Luzon we placed under “modified ECQ” or “MECQ” — from May 16 to May 31 — as these areas were categorized as high-risk.

From May 16 to 31, additional areas in Luzon were placed under MECQ — namely Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga (including Angeles), and Zambales.

On May 28, the task force downgraded the tier of quarantine of Metro Manila and other areas in Luzon to GCQ starting on June 1.

MGCQ means modified GCQ: It is last quarantine scenario before the so-called “new normal.”

The ECQ caused the mobilization of Philippine government agencies and local government units as well as the passing of Republic Act No. 11469 or the "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act" in order to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines.

Originally, low-risk areas would neither be under ECQ nor GCQ but it was later clarified that low-risk areas would be under modified GCQ.

The terminology and confusion over the community quarantine levels for naming system adopted, resulted in misunderstandings as well as willful violations. Many ECQ violators have been documented throughout the duration of the ECQ. Thus, Philippine authorities imposed stricter measures to further combat people disobeying ECQ rules.

Originally, low-risk areas would neither be under ECQ nor GCQ but it was later clarified that low-risk areas would be under modified GCQ.

Q: How much is the compensation given to the families of Philippine-based health workers who died of COVID-19?

Under Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, health workers who contracted COVID-19 will be given PHP100,000, while the families of healthcare workers who died of COVID-19 duty will receive PHP1 million.

Q: What is the percentage of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines with mild symptoms?

As of June 7, the DOH said 95.5% of confirmed COVID-19 patients exhibited mild symptoms.

Some 395,221 have been tested for coronavirus in the country as of June 6.

The DOH said it would expand testing to include certain asymptomatic subgroups.

Q: What are the economic prospects in the Philippines post-COVID-19?

The Philippines has imposed one of the most restrictive lockdowns in the region that resulted in a recession and displaced millions of workers. It is now being gradually eased.

The lockdown affected around 57 million people under quarantine. The Philippines handed out cash to the poorest Filipino families during the lockdown.

The National Economic and Development Authority revised its 2020 economic growth forecast to 5.5 to 6.5 percent against the targeted 6.5 to 7.5 percent growth, assuming that the COVID-19 problem lasts until June 2020.

It is expected that the prices of basic goods will go up to 2.2 percent only compared to 2.5 percent average in 2019.

Nomura, a Japanese financial holding company, lowered its gross domestic product (GDP) estimates to the Philippines from 5.6% to 1.6%.

The National Economic and Development Authority revised its 2020 economic growth forecast to 5.5 to 6.5 percent against the targeted 6.5 to 7.5 percent growth, assuming that the COVID-19 problem lasts until June 2020.

It is expected that the prices of basic goods will go up to 2.2 percent only compared to 2.5 percent average in 2019.[142] Nomura, a Japanese financial holding company, lowered its gross domestic product (GDP) estimates to the Philippines from 5.6% to 1.6%.

This 2020, the Philippine economy is seen going into a recession amid the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, according to research by HSBC.

The Philippines’ war chest against COVID-19 breached the P1-trillion level as of June, the latest data compiled by economists at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed.

Q: How many Philippine companies are affected?

Over 2,000 companies declared permanent closure, redundancy or retrenchment: DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment).

Nearly 70,000 Filipinos have lost their jobs after thousands of businesses here in the country ceased their operations due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Is it true that crime went down in the Philippines?

Yes. A steep crime drop was recorded on the main island of Luzon, where crime went down by 61 per cent, the police reported on June 10 (Wednesday).

Overall, the Philippine National Police (PNP) noted a 57-percent decline in the incidence of the eight “focus crimes” during the 84 days of community quarantine.

57%

decline in the incidence of eight focus crimes in the Philippines during the pandemic

Data from the Joint Task Force Covid Shield (JTF CV Shield) showed that the number of focus crime incidents dropped to 5,652 from March 17 to June 8, from 13,004 cases — from Dec. 24, 2019, to March 16 this year.

The eight focus crimes are: murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, robbery, theft, car theft, and motorcycle theft.

  1. Murder - down 37 percent, from 1,486 to 932
  2. Homicide - down 30 percent, from 359 to 252
  3. Physical injury - down 38 percent, from 2,171 to 1,348
  4. Rape - down 49 percent, from 1,738 to 88
  5. Robbery - down 68 percent, from 2,036 to 658
  6. Theft - down 67 percent, from 4,246 to 1,391
  7. Car theft - down 81 percent, from 880 to 170
  8. Motorcycle theft - down 82 percent, from 88 to 16 cases

In the Visayas, the rate declined by 54 percent from 3,344 to 1,546 while Mindanao saw a 49-percent decrease from 2,738 to 1,386.

Q: How many community quarantine violators were reported?

JTF CV Shield commander, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, reported that a total of 193,779 community quarantine violators were either warned, fined, or arrested.

Luzon has the highest number of violators at 126,038, while the Visayas and Mindanao had 34,370 and 33,371, respectively.

Q: How many hoarders and price gougers were arrested?

The police, in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry, have arrested 885 persons suspected of hoarding, profiteering, or manipulating the prices of essential goods as of June 8.