Nearly 5,000 repatriated Pinoys have COVID-19

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
Nearly 5,000 repatriated Pinoys have COVID-19
Based on the DOH’s “COVID-19 Philippine Situationer,” a total of 221,275 returning overseas Filipinos arrived in the country since the start of the pandemic.
STAR / Edd Gumban, file

MANILA, Philippines — Almost 5,000 Filipinos who have returned from various countries have tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Based on the DOH’s “COVID-19 Philippine Situationer,” a total of 221,275 returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) arrived in the country since the start of the pandemic.

Of the total number of ROF, DOH said 211,540 have been released from quarantine facilities while 4,831 were confirmed positive for the potentially deadly infection.

DOH said 574 of those who tested positive for COVID remain in hospital, 4,113 have recovered, while five died due to the infection.

Aside from those who have returned home, DOH said the agency also recorded a total of 1,796 Filipinos staying abroad who are infected with the virus.

The figure, DOH said, represents only 18 percent of the total 9,692 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) among Filipinos abroad.

President Duterte has already approved the P5-billion budget for the repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello reported yesterday.

He said the bulk of the funds will go to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to oversee repatriation of OFWs who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

Aside from repatriation, Bello said that OWWA shoulders the cost of COVID-19 testing for OFWs upon their arrival in the country, as well as their food and accommodation while awaiting lab test results.

An additional 8,924 overseas Filipinos were repatriated last week, which brought the total number of repatriated Filipinos due to the COVID-19 pandemic to 124,717, the DFA said.

Of the total, 39.8 percent (49,655) are sea-based while 60.2 percent (75,062) are land-based.

The DFA gave assurance they would bring home overseas Filipinos from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as the deadline to leave the country for those with expired tourist visas drew near.

A total of 3,660 Filipinos from the UAE were repatriated last week through 13 special commercial repatriation flights and one DFA-chartered flight.

The DFA also welcomed the return of 2,349 seafarers from all over the world including Bangladesh, Italy, Spain, Japan, Singapore, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.

COVID-19 cases surge

The DOH reported that COVID cases nationwide continued to rise and had surged to nearly 130,000.

As of yesterday, the DOH had recorded 129,913 confirmed cases with the addition of 3,109 infections based on reports coming from 82 laboratories.

Most of 1,700 newly recorded infections within the past 14 days came from the National Capital Region (NCR), while 169 came from Laguna, and 114 cases from Cebu. Rizal and Cavite accounted for the rest of the newly reported cases.

For the past two weeks, DOH said NCR still topped the regions with the highest number of confirmed COVID cases, followed by Calabarzon and Central Luzon.

DOH said repatriated Filipinos posted 156, or eight percent of the newly recorded cases for the past 14 days. A high of 654 recoveries pushed to 67,673 the total number of patients who got well from the infection. However, COVID-related fatalities rose to 2,270 with the inclusion of 61 newly reported deaths. Of the newly recorded fatalities, 17 were in August, 34 in July, six in June, and four last May.

More than half, or 59 percent of the newly reported fatalities, came from Central Visayas, 26 percent from NCR, and five percent from the Ilocos region.

The other fatalities came from the Zamboanga Peninsula, Calabarzon, Eastern Visayas and Western Visayas.

Raising alarm

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed alarm over the increasing number of Filipinos testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as the increasing rate of infection in the country, which is now reaching 12 to 13 percent in the past two weeks, from below 10 percent early in the outbreak.

“The spread of the virus in the country is worsening,” Drilon said.

“I’ve heard that they are attributing the surge in the number of cases to the increased testing capacity. What they’re not mentioning is the increase in positivity rate. If we look at the data in March and April, the positivity rate then was between nine to 10 percent, now it is anywhere between 12 to 13 percent and is still increasing,” he underscored.

The senator cited, for instance, the turnout of cases on Aug. 6. Out of 19,666 individuals tested, Drilon said 2,400 were confirmed positive or about a 12.2 percent infection rate.

The rate was much worse last Aug.1 when the country recorded a 13.9 percent positivity rate after 3,641 individuals tested positive out of 26,149 tests conducted, he noted.

Cumulative records would also reveal an increase in the rate of infection, which would dismiss the reasoning of government officials that the surge in the number of cases, outranking Indonesia, is brought about by increased testing capacity, according to Drilon.

“Our effort to prevent the spread of the virus is totally failing, because the virus continues to multiply. That is what we must arrest. We must take advantage of the lockdown to increase our contact tracing efforts,” Drilon said.

“For all that we are doing, having the strictest and longest lockdown that put the country at a standstill, we still failed to prevent the spread of the virus,” Drilon said.

“This is not a contest; this is not a race between nations. It is a race between the virus and our health system,” Drilon said.

Drilon said he would push for more funding in the Bayanihan 2 Act in order to cover more beneficiaries of the social amelioration program.

“The P140 billion stimulus fund is not enough. We’ll need more because the spread of the virus can’t be controlled. Our economy will suffer if we go on lockdown. We need to expand the social amelioration program to give temporary relief to our countrymen who are badly hit by the pandemic,” Drilon said. – Pia Lee-Brago, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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