Red Cross coronavirus testing halt leaves 4,000 OFWs stranded
A doctor shows the Natch RNA Extractor along with other new machines inside the newly inaugurated molecular laboratory of the Philippine Red Cross at the Port Area in Manila in June 2020.
The STAR/KJ Rosales, file

Red Cross coronavirus testing halt leaves 4,000 OFWs stranded

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - October 20, 2020 - 2:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — Returning Filipino migrant workers have become the biggest casualty of the Philippine Red Cross’ decision to stop coronavirus testing due to massive debts incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. that pays for the diagnosis.

On Tuesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III estimated that around 4,000 repatriated overseas Filipino workers are now stranded in various hotels in Metro Manila and unable to go home without getting tested for the deadly virus.

“Whereas before we succeeded in bringing home or treating our OFWs at the rate of 1,000 to 3,000 a day, now we are only talking about a maximum of 300 a day,” Bello said in a briefing. “So you can just imagine how many OFWs are stranded in all the hotels in Metro Manila.”

He added that from just 3 to 4 days, returning migrant workers now have to stay in hotels designated as quarantine sites for a week, which in turn results into a bigger financial burden for the government.

Red Cross stopped accepting specimens from repatriated OFWs and frontliners last Wednesday due to PhilHealth’s inability to pay testing fees which have accumulated to over P930 million. In response, PhilHealth directed people affected by Red Cross' decision to head to other accredited coronavirus testing centers.

President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, said Monday PhilHealth’s debt to Red Cross will be settled, although details as to how this would be paid are scant.

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