Gov’t on Alert for Returning OFWs from Ebola-Hit Countries

MANILA, Philippines – The government is on alert for the return of undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other travelers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.

Department of Health (DOH) spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is closely monitoring the travel history of all travelers, including OFWs, who are arriving from other countries but have previously traveled to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“So their passports have to be checked if they have traveled to West Africa so they could be placed under quarantine,” he added.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and recruitment agencies have advised the DOH on the return date of documented workers.

The undocumented workers, however, have not passed through the POEA so the DOH cannot be advised on their return.

For this reason, the DOH is closely working with the BI and the Department of Tourism (DOT).

“Although there is a slim possibility of tourists from West Africa coming here, we are still coordinating with the DOT so we could prevent the possible spread of Ebola in the country,” Lee Suy said.

About 700 OFWs from Ebola-affected countries are expected to return to the Philippines.

The quarantine site for returning OFWs is now ready and can accommodate 60 to 70 OFWs at one time, Lee Suy said.

However, a group of OFWs employed in West Africa expressed opposition to the government’s plan to put them under a 21-day quarantine when they return to the country.

The workers said they would not be able to spend time with their families if the DOH would put them under mandatory quarantine during their vacation.

Lee Suy said the DOH expects resistance from OFWs, but the agency is appealing for their understanding.

“We need to put them under quarantine because of the possible risk of spreading the infection,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the Filipino peacekeeper who got sick while confined at the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) is now “doing well” and may be released anytime, Lee Suy said.

“We just need to check his blood to ensure there are no more parasites before he returns to Caballo Island,” Lee Suy added.

(Source: Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star)

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