MANILA – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved the temporary suspension of all international flights to and from the Philippines until 11:59 of May 8.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this announcement during a virtual presser on Tuesday, a day after saying that the government is lacking quarantine rooms for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Flights which will continue to be allowed include official, emergency, cargo ambulance and medical supply, weather mitigation, maintenance flights, and international flights for stranded foreign nationals, Roque said.
On Sunday, Presidential Peace Adviser and National Policy Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 has made the decision to temporarily restrict flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila and all other international airports in the country.
Galvez said the decision is meant to decongest quarantine facilities and to ensure that OFWs are well taken care of when they arrive from abroad.
All OFWs are all required to undergo a 14-day mandatory, facility-based quarantine and undergo Covid-19 tests.
National Policy Against Covid-19 deputy chief implementer and Trace, Treat and Test (3T) program chief Vivencio Dizon said the goal is to test 25,000 OFWs in Metro Manila and Greater Manila by the end of May.
“We have to test them as soon as possible in order to be able to decongest the quarantine facilities, the hotels, and various other quarantine facilities in Metro Manila before we can start accepting OFWs again. Kaakibat nito actually ang desisyon ng ating chief implementor na mag-suspend muna ng (This is related to the decision of our chief implementor to suspend) inbound flights into Metro Manila,” Dizon said.
Meanwhile, Roque said the IATF also approved the Omnibus Guidelines on the Quarantine and Testing of Repatriates as presented by the Department of Health (DOH).
“Lahat po ng Pilipino pagdating sa airport, kinakailangan mag PCR test. Habang inaantay po yung resulta ng PCR test, kinakailangan po manatili sa facility quarantine (All Filipinos, when they arrive at the airport have to undergo Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. While waiting for their results, they need to stay in quarantine facilities),” Roque said.
He also assured that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will shoulder quarantine costs.
After testing negative, the OFWs will be allowed to return home and undergo another 14-day quarantine in their respective households, he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte urged local government units (LGUs) to accept returning OFWs who have been cleared after undergoing quarantine and testing.
“Makinig kayong (Listen, you) local executives — the national government will insist that you accept the OFW. Magkakaroon ho tayo ng problema (We will have a problem) if you resist because then as a worker of government, it falls upon my shoulders to see to it that everything is done fair,” Duterte said in a public address aired late Monday night.
As of Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs reported 68 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 among Filipinos abroad, bringing the total number of positive cases to 1,819.
The total number of recovered cases among overseas Filipinos worldwide rose to 475 while the death toll climbed to 214. (IA/PNA)