The Philippine’s Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Tuesday that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are now allowed to return to Hong Kong and Macau after being exempted from the travel restrictions imposed by the government because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) threat.
In a tweet, Brigido Dulay, DFA Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concern, said OFWs traveling to China’s Special Administrative Regions are exempted from Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) travel ban.
“Today, DFA Sec Locsin’s advocacy has come true. OFWs returning for work in Hong Kong and Macau have been exempted from the outbound travel ban by the IATF-EID, subject to certain procedural formalities,” Dulay said.
According to Department of Health (DOH), this new policy was decided upon by the IATF-EID in a meeting on Tuesday.
“The Task Force also agreed to authorize travel to Hong Kong and Macau for permanent residents of the respective Special Administrative Regions, Filipinos leaving abroad for study, and Overseas Filipino Workers, provided that the travellers sign a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved,” the DOH said in a statement.
The task force also resolved to allow Filipinos and their foreign spouses or children, and holders of diplomatic visas to enter the country subject to 14-day quarantine.
Initially, only Filipinos and holders of permanent resident visas travelling from mainland China, Macau, and Hong Kong were allowed entry into the country.
These new exemptions in the travel restrictions were based on “thorough risk assessment of the current situation,” according to DOH.
The DOH added that the over 538 Filipino crew and passengers of the MV Diamond Princess now quarantined at the Yokohama Port in Japan and who will request repatriation will be accommodated by the Philippine government in accordance to guidelines set by the department.
“We ensure our kababayans (countrymen) aboard the M/V Diamond Princess that your health and well-being is of utmost importance to President Rodrigo Duterte and this government,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
The DOH assured it will follow strict infection control and quarantine procedures to ensure the safety of the Filipinos aboard the cruise ship and health workers who will man the quarantine facility that will temporarily house them once they arrive in the country.
“DOH, with the assistance of partner agencies will repatriate the Filipinos from the said cruise ship. We will closely coordinate with concerned offices and local government units to provide a seamless and efficient repatriation plan for our countrymen,” said Duque.
IATF previously banned visitors coming from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau which also prohibits Filipinos from traveling to the said countries due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Source: INQUIRER.net)