DOLE: 103 OFWs worldwide test positive for COVID-19
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 103 Filipinos abroad have tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday.

Seventy of them have recovered and none has died.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, citing data from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), said the COVID-positive Filipinos are scattered across eight countries where the virus has spread.

The latest in this list are five Filipinos in Hong Kong, three in Singapore, one in Switzeland, two in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), four in Qatar and two in Lebanon.

Another six Filipinos in the United States have also caught the viral infection, he said.

Earlier, Japan recorded the biggest number of Filipinos who contracted the disease – a total of 80 Filipino crew of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama.

Yesterday, 401 crewmembers of the cruise ship who had been repatriated received cash assistance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) after completing their 14-day quarantine.

Each of them received P10,000. The OWWA also provided bus service for 81 seafarers to either Clark International Airport or the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as well as airline tickets for their return to their respective home provinces.

Bello said the DOLE has yet to receive any request for repatriation among these Filipinos abroad, except for those in Macau.

However, he lamented that 50 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong were terminated due to COVID-19.

In Macau, 55 OFWs were terminated and 304 were given forced leave without pay, he added.

The labor chief said there was no report of displacements among Filipinos in Italy and Saudi Arabia despite the lockdown in those areas.

So, far the DOLE does not see a massive impact of COVID-19 to overseas employment. “As of now it’s not (massive), but if it will linger, the impact will be bigger,” Bello said.

Repatriates in US

Meanwhile, the Philippine embassy in Washington and the Philippine consulate general in San Francisco have yet to find a landing field for the plane that will bring 538 Filipino crew and passengers of the virus-hit cruise ship Grand Princess home.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said yesterday that San Francisco will not allow the repatriation of Filipinos from its airport.

“We just need the US or California state government to give us time to find a landing field that will take a big PAL plane,” Locsin said in a post on Twitter.

“San Francisco can’t allow us to repatriate from its airport. But we’re making the case for repatriating 529 crew with the nine cruise passengers,” he said.

Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr., who visited Oakland on Monday, said the consulate continues to establish and maintain contact with some of the Filipinos on board the Grand Princess to check on their welfare.

Pinoys in HK

In Hong Kong, a fourth Filipino who tested positive for COVID-19 remains hospitalized, but appears to be “asymptomatic.”

Citing a report of the Philippine consulate general in Hong Kong, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the first reported COVID-positive Filipino there has already recovered and been discharged from the hospital.

However, the second and third cases of infected Filipinos were still confined.

The consulate assured the public it is closely monitoring the condition of all Filipinos needing assistance.

Meantime, the DFA said the Liberian government has imposed temporary entry restrictions on all Liberia-bound passengers. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Catherine Talavera

COVID-19 OFW
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