The province of Bohol is now ready to receive repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) after setting stringent quarantine protocols aimed at preventing contagion of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
There are 81 Boholano OFWs stranded in Cebu that have undergone testing for Covid-19 as reported by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Of the 81, about 15 were tested negative and cleared to return to Bohol by batch, subject to the new protocol.
Governor Arthur Yap said over the weekend that a protocol is needed to make sure the repatriation of distressed OFWs back to Bohol will be consistent with the preventive measures implemented against the spread of Covid-19.
Yap signed Executive Order 25 on Friday (April 24) instituting the said protocol, emphasizing the need for the OFWs to be allowed entry into the province for humanitarian reasons while at the same time ensuring the safety of its 1.3 million residents from the Covid-19 threat.
The 1-Bohol Covid-19 Task Force Medical Technical Team formulated the guidelines in allowing the return of Boholano OFWs to the province which was adopted by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines Bohol Chapter in a resolution dated April 20, 2020, he said.
To be allowed entry, it is required that the returning OFW undergoes a complete 14-day quarantine, supervised and duly certified by the Department of Health (DOH) at the point of origin followed by the conduct of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved rapid antibody test.
“Those who test positive for rapid Covid-19 antibody test shall remain at the place of origin for further testing for viral RNA (PCR) and corresponding protocols shall be followed on testing results and confirmation,” he said.
The EO said if any member of a group in a common quarantine facility tests positive for rapid Covid-19 antibody test, the whole group shall remain at the place of origin for further testing for viral RNA (PCR).
RNA stands for ribonucleic acid while PCR means polymerase chain reaction.
A person who tested negative in the rapid antibody test and has completed the 14-day supervised quarantine shall present the DOH certification of quarantine and the result of the rapid antibody test to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Provincial Emergency Management Administration (PEMA) in Bohol.
PEMA Bohol must receive the DOH certification of quarantine and the negative result of the rapid antibody test within 24 hours before their scheduled departure.
On the day of departure, there shall be no disruption of the travel of the Boholano OFWs from the quarantine facility at the place of origin to the seaport or airport, Yap said.
The EO also said that the returning OFW must have no symptoms such as fever, cough, coryza, sore throat, diarrhea, and shortness of breath at the time of boarding.
“All persons with symptom or symptoms shall not be allowed to board the vessel regardless if they had taken any tests and that a certification was issued to that effect,” he said.
Masks shall be worn at all times during the transportation process and hand sanitation must be done at every point of vehicle transfer, the EO required.
The pick-up vehicle shall be ready at the port of arrival and passengers shall not be allowed to disembark or deplane if the ground transportation is not yet available.
Immediately upon arrival, they shall be placed in a PEMA-approved quarantine facility for 14 days.
However, the transfer from port of arrival to the quarantine facility or hotel should not be disrupted.
The governor said in the EO that persons who tested negative in the rapid antibody test at the point of embarkation shall be tested for viral RNA (PCR) one week after the arrival in the quarantine facility in Bohol to confirm the result of the rapid test.
Persons under quarantine cannot be visited by members of their families or any person for the duration of their 14-day quarantine.
Once a positive Covid-19 case is detected from among the returning Boholano OFWs or in the province, all repatriation processes shall be temporarily suspended until further notice.
Yap clarified that the repatriation protocol will not apply to returning Boholano OFWs from the National Capital Region (NCR) due to the high disease burden in the region.
Yap explained that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, through Resolution 18, strongly enjoins local government units to allow the unhampered transit of OFWs who have been issued DOH or LGU (local government unit) certificate of completion of 14-day facility-based quarantine.
He also cited that the OWWA has long recognized the need for reintegrating OFWs back into their communities especially in times of forced repatriation due to unexpected events such as the pandemic.
Bohol remains zero on transmission of the Covid-19, with only one case of infection detected from a Chinese woman who was earlier reported to have recovered from the viral disease. (PNA)