Philippines to repatriate OFWs from Saudi Arabia amid COVID-19 pandemic

Arriving passengers walk past a thermal camera at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2020

Philippines to repatriate OFWs from Saudi Arabia amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • 200 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be repatriated
  • OFWs will receive food assistance from the Philippine Labor Office in Riyadh while waiting for their repatriation

MANILA: The Philippine government said it is now working to bring home some 200 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Riyadh who lost their jobs amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Hans Cacdac, in a TV interview on Thursday, said that given the workers’ current situation, “they must be repatriated, first and foremost.”

The OWWA official said that their target is to repatriate the migrant workers within a month, although this will depend on their exit visas. Cacdac expressed confidence, however, in the cooperation of the Saudi government with regard to processing the visas.

“We are now processing their cases so they can be included in the next batch of repatriates,” Cacdac said.

He also assured that the workers’ recruitment agency would be held accountable for not taking steps to provide assistance to the OFWs.

“We have already brought the matter before the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration,” Cacdac said.

For their immediate needs, Cacdac said the OFWs would receive food assistance from the Philippine Labor Office in Riyadh while waiting for their repatriation.

The office had to suspend operations after six of its officers and staff tested positive for COVID-19, but they still continue to respond to calls and provide services to Filipino workers.

Reynan Bancorro, one of the 200 OFWs to be repatriated, said that he had been out of work since lockdown was imposed last March.

Bancorro is among a group of OFWs working in an aluminum company. They have been out of work for three months now.

Cacdac said that those who were forced to pawn their passports would be provided with a travel document by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

Meanwhile, the 353 additional Filipinos from Jeddah and other parts in the western region of Saudi Arabia have returned to Manila on Thursday on board a chartered Philippine Airlines flight arranged by the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah.

Seventy-six of the 353 passengers were female wards from the Philippine Consulate’s “Bahay Kalinga” migrant shelter. Four have medical conditions but were certified as fit to travel, and two were minors. The rest of the passengers were OFWs who were economically displaced and became stranded in the Kingdom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

Updated 49 min 37 sec ago

WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

  • WHO previously said the virus spreads through droplets expelled from the nose and mouth that quickly sink to the ground
  • New evidence shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in

GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Tuesday acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus, after a group of scientists urged the global body to update its guidance on how the respiratory disease passes between people.
“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, told a news briefing.
The WHO has previously said the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground.
But in an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, published on Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.
Because those smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air, the scientists are urging WHO to update its guidance.
Speaking at Tuesday’s briefing in Geneva, Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive.
.”..The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings — especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out,” she said.
“However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted, and we continue to support this.”
Any change in the WHO’s assessment of risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 1-meter (3.3 feet) of physical distancing. Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
Van Kerkhove said the WHO would publish a scientific brief summarising the state of knowledge on modes of transmission of the virus in the coming days.
“A comprehensive package of interventions is required to be able to stop transmission,” she said.
“This includes not only physical distancing, it includes the use of masks where appropriate in certain settings, specifically where you can’t do physical distancing and especially for health care workers.”