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Roque: 13,000 OFWs to be sent home after COVID-19 tests, quarantine

At least 13,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who returned to the country and already underwent COVID-19 test and 14-day quarantine are ready to be sent home, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said Wednesday.

Roque made the assurance after National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. said that 42,000 OFWs due to arrive in the country could overwhelm the existing quarantine facilities.

“May 13,000 OFWs po na natapos na po ang testing at mapapauwi na po. Malaking numero po iyan,” Roque said in an interview with GMA's Unang Hirit.

“Kaya nga po patuloy na bubulabugin ko po ang mga ahensiya para hindi na magtagal ang proseso. Minsan po kasi, nariyan na ang result, hindi lang nare-relay agad,” Roque added.

Roque said that arriving OFWs can reach as much as 80,000, counting those OFWs who work in cruise ships.

“Kailangan po talaga mapabilis dahil limitado rin po ang ating mga hotel rooms [as quarantine facility],” Roque said.

In a separate television interview, Roque vowed to give regular updates on the status of OFWs under facility-based quarantine. 

“We’ve come up with the mechanism that I will be informed on a daily basis — how many results have come in and how many have been released from quarantine,” he told ANC.  

“So on my regular press briefings, I will also provide some data on how many tests have come out and how many OFWs have been released," Roque said.

At least 456 OFWs have tested positive for COVID-19 thus far.

While returning OFWs are given COVID-19 tests for free, the government has been drawing flak for not conducting mass testing on employees who returned to work since May 16 amid eased quarantine rules.

Prior to eased quarantine measures which allow 50% to 75% of the workforce per company to physically report back to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Luzon has been placed under enhanced community quarantine for two months—a measure that banned mass transport and prohibited mass gathering, resulting in work stoppage in many industries.

The government, however, said the Philippines is implementing expanded COVID-19 testing which is focused on those with symptoms and those with exposure to COVID-19 patients, due to limited resources.

Likewise, the government has appealed to private employers to shoulder the cost of COVID-19 tests for their respective employees.

The government’s COVID-19 testing effort is led by testing czar and Bases Conversion and Development Authority Chief Vince Dizon.

Dizon has said that the government hopes to conduct 30,000 COVID-19 tests by end of May and as much as 50,000 tests per day come June.

The Philippines has registered 12,942 COVID-19 cases so far. Of this number, 2,843 recovered while 837 died. —AOL/KG, GMA News