MANILA, Philippines, February 10 ------ A flight from Wuhan, China the epicenter of the 2019-novel coronavirus (nCoV) – carrying 30 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), escorted by a team of Philippine government officials from various agencies, arrived at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga early yesterday morning. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the repatriated OFWs on the chartered flight that landed at the Haribon Hangar in Clark Air Base included 29 adults and an infant. They sought to return home from Wuhan City.
With the repatriates were a 10-member team from the Philippines – two officials from the Philippine consulate general in Shanghai, three personnel of the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) and five medical team members from the Department of Health (DOH). The teams from the DFA home office in Manila and DOH flew to Wuhan on Saturday night. The OFWs underwent screening before boarding the plane, during the flight and upon landing. The DOH said all the repatriates are free of any signs and symptoms of nCoV. Upon their arrival, the OFWs were swiftly transferred from the plane to their dedicated buses, and brought to the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City (NCC) in Tarlac for a 14-day quarantine period where they will be closely monitored and observed. All their basic necessities, including hygiene kits and meals will be provided during their quarantine.
Aside from the OFWs, the DOH also placed under the same quarantine the two Philippine consulate staff who coordinated the repatriation in Wuhan, all five members of the medical team, six airline crew, and three from the DFA-OUMWA team. While all 30 of the OFWs have no symptoms of nCoV, the DOH has maintained a Code Blue alert placed on all government health facilities in Central Luzon to provide the necessary medical needs of the repatriates.
The DOH said all public provincial and city hospitals, as well as health offices and other government health facilities in Central Luzon, are ordered to immediately extend medical services for repatriated Filipinos from China if necessary. The medical teams at New Clark City will assess and determine if the repatriated OFWs will be transferred to a hospital for close monitoring. The DOH is in charge of the management, coordination and logistics of the entire quarantine process. “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 yesterday.
The DFA made an initial call for the repatriation of Filipino nationals in China on Jan. 28, which was facilitated by the Philippine embassy in Beijing and the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai, the foreign service post with jurisdiction over Wuhan city in Hubei province. The embassy and the consulate liaised with Chinese authorities to facilitate the operation. This past week, two representatives from the Consulate General in Shanghai had to hurdle several border provinces’ clearances along their arduous two-day land travel to Wuhan to coordinate with the Filipino community and the Foreign Affairs Office in Hubei.