Travel ban to limit spread of UK Covid variant affects thousands of OFWs

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Around 6,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) were affected by the travel restrictions implemented by the government for countries that reported new cases of the UK Covid-19 variant.

This number could still increase after Malacañang’s extension of travel restrictions, as the UK variant of Covid-19, B117 continues to spread in more countries. 

In a radio interview, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) it has started sending home the some of the 5,900 quarantined OFWs, who tested negative for Covid-19, on Thursday. 

OFWs, who were mandated to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine since Dec. 30, 2020. 

“These were the ones who came from the 28 countries, which have the UK variant,” OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac said. 

He said this will help them decongest their accommodations for OFWs.  

Possible expansion and extension 

The list of countries with travel restrictions were later expanded to 32 countries. Currently, there is a proposal to include the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the list after a Filipino, who traveled there tested positive for B117. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III explained they were not able included UAE in the list since it did not report to have any B117 case. 

“But now, we have the evidence to tell them, you have the UK variant,” Duque said. 

He said their proposal to impose travel restriction for foreign travelers in UAE will only take effect after it its approved by the  Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

Exemption 

The existing travel restriction is supposed to expire on Jan. 15, 2021, but Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the IATF is likely to extend its period.

Roque already advised foreign travelers from the the 32 countries, who are bound for Philippines to defer purchasing plane tickets due to the expected extension. 

“The travel restriction imposed by the President is subject to extension upon approval of the IATF,” Roque said. 

Roque, however, assured Filipino travelers will remain exempted from the travel restriction, but will still be mandated to under the 14-day quarantine. 

Both the inclusion of UAE as well as the extension of the duration of the travel restriction were discussed in the IATF meeting on Thursday.  As of press time, the IATF has yet to decide on the both proposals.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes



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