Duterte orders local govt units to accept returning overseas workers

Overseas Filipino workers, who were quarantined as they arrived in the country weeks ago, wait inside a bus before they head back to their provinces on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 27 May 2020

Duterte orders local govt units to accept returning overseas workers

  • 24,000 OFWs had completed the mandatory quarantine period and tested negative for coronavirus

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday warned Local Government Units (LGUs) that they would face sanctions if they failed to accept Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) returning to their hometowns as part of government measures to help nationals leave coronavirus-hit countries.

“I am ordering you to accept them, open the gates of your territories and allow the people  ... to travel wherever they want,” Duterte said in an address aired late on Monday night. 

The government on Monday began to facilitate the return of some 24,000 repatriated OFWs to their home provinces after they were lodged at quarantine centers in Metro Manila for weeks, with some staying at the facilities for almost two months.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that the 24,000 OFWs had completed the mandatory quarantine period and tested negative for coronavirus.

To reiterate his seriousness about the order, the president has given government agencies a week’s time to ensure that the OFWs can return to their families, but Bello assured Duterte that the task would be completed within three days, from May 25 to 27.

The president’s palace said that Duterte was exasperated by the delay in the release of the OFWs and wanted authorities to speed up the processing of their test results so that those who were cleared could go home.

In his message on Monday night, Duterte warned that local officials who refused to take in the OFWs could face charges, stressing that everyone’s right to travel and to return home was guaranteed under the constitution.

“It is the constitutional right of people to go home — to travel and go home,” Duterte said.

“Do not impede it. Do not obstruct the movement of people because you run the risk of getting sued criminally,” he said.

Duterte said that only the national government could impose travel restrictions because it was the only body that could declare an emergency based on national interest.

 As the power to declare an emergency solely lay with the national government and was not shared with any other body, the imposition of quarantine measures should dovetail with national policy, he said.

If LGUs wanted to implement measures at local level, they should ask the permission of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the president said.

Duterte said that it was cruel for LGUs to shut the doors on returning workers. He added it was ironic that while the government considered them modern day heroes, they faced abandonment in times of distress.

To bring home the OFWs who were stranded in Manila, Duterte ordered the use of all government assets to transport them by air, sea or land.

If possible, Duterte said that the OFWs should be “delivered to their families.”

Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano also ordered policemen manning quarantine control points to ensure the smooth passage of the workers who had been allowed to go back to their hometowns.

“Starting today up to Wednesday, (we have) 24,000 OFWs returning to their provinces using buses, airplanes and ships. All these OFWs have undergone RT-PCR testing and all turned out negative,” Ano said on Monday.

“They have a certificate of quarantine so we are informing the public on this as we can see various movements in the next three days,” he said.


When coronavirus robs you of your sense of smell

Updated 15 min 28 sec ago

When coronavirus robs you of your sense of smell

  • “Anosmia cuts you off from the smells of life, it’s a torture.” — Jean-Michel Maillard, president of anosmie.org
PARIS: “What I miss most is the smell of my son when I kiss him, the smell of my wife’s body,” says Jean-Michel Maillard.
Anosmia — the loss of one’s sense of smell — may be an invisible handicap, but is psychologically difficult to live with and has no real treatment, he says.
And it is the price that an increasing number of people are paying after surviving a brush with the coronavirus, with some facing a seemingly long-term inability to smell.
“Anosmia cuts you off from the smells of life, it’s a torture,” says Maillard, president of anosmie.org, a French group designed to help sufferers.
If you have the condition you can no longer breathe in the smell of your first morning coffee, smell the cut grass of a freshly mown lawn or even “the reassuring smell of soap on your skin when you’re preparing for a meeting,” he says.
You only truly become aware of your sense of smell when you lose it, says Maillard, who lost his own following an accident.
And it is not just the olfactory pleasures you lose. He points out that people with anosmia are unable to smell smoke from a fire, gas from a leak, or a poorly washed dustbin.
Eating is a completely different experience too, as so much of what we appreciate in food is what we can smell, says Alain Corre, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Hopital-Fondation Rothschild in Paris.
“There are dozens of causes of anosmia,” he says, including nasal polyps, chronic rhinitis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Now the new coronavirus has been added to that list, says Corre — with the symptom alone allowing a diagnosis of COVID-19 in some cases.
“When people lose their sense of smell and don’t get it back, we note a real change in the quality of life and a level of depression that is not insignificant,” he adds.
The problem is when the condition persists, he says.
“To be deprived of your sense of smell for a month, it’s not serious,” says Maillard. “Two months, it starts to become a problem. But after six months, you’re all alone under a bell jar.
“There’s a psychological aspect to this which is very difficult to live with,” he insists. “You need to get help.”

CovidORL study
There is no specific treatment for the condition.
You have to address the cause, says Corre, but “the problem of the anosmias linked to the virus is that often, the treatment of the viral infection has no effect on your smell.
“According to the first numbers, around 80 percent of patients suffering from COVID-19 recover spontaneously in less than a month and often even faster, in eight to 10 days.”
For others, however, it could be that the disease has destroyed their olfactory neurons — the ones that detect smells. The good news is that these neurons, at the back of the nose, are able to regenerate.
Two Paris hospitals, Rothschild and Lariboisiere, have launched a “CovidORL” study to investigate the phenomenon, testing how well different nose washes can cure anosmia.
One cortisone-based treatment has proved effective in treating post-cold instances of anosmia and offers some hope, says Corre.
Another way to approach the condition is through olfactory re-education, to try to stimulate the associations that specific smells have in your memory, he says.
His advice is to choose five smells in your kitchen that are special to you, that you really like: cinnamon say, or thyme. Breathe them in twice a day for five to 10 minutes while looking at what it is you are inhaling.
Anosmie.org has even put together a re-education program using essential oils, working with Hirac Gurden, director of neuroscience research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). It is based on the work of Dresden-based researcher Thomas Hummel.
“As early as March, we got several hundred phone calls, emails from people who had COVID and who were calling for help because they couldn’t smell anything any more,” says Gurden.
Maillard meanwhile finished his re-education program last winter, using four smells.
“Today, I have 10 of them,” he says, including fish, cigarettes and rose essential oil. “I’ve even found a perfume that I can smell!” he declares.