Gov’t begins repatriating Filipinos from Hubei, China amid nCoV outbreak
MANILA, Philippines – The government on Saturday, February 8, started repatriating Filipinos from China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus.
The first batch of at least 26 repatriates are expected to arrive at Clark International Airport in Pampanga at around 5 am on Sunday, February 9, and will then be brought to the New Clark City Athletes’ Village where they will be quarantined for 14 days, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Health (DOH) said in a media briefing on Saturday evening.
A team of 8 representatives from the government were to depart from Clark at 10:15 pm on Saturday on board a chartered flight from the Royal Air Charter Service, and were expected to arrive at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport at 1:15 am on Sunday.
The team consists of 3 officials from the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA), and two doctors, two nurses, and one medical technologist from the DOH.
They will assist the repatriates and give them medical screenings during the 3-hour flight back to Clark onboard the same chartered plane.
Two officials from the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai, China, accompanied the repatriates while waiting at the airport in Wuhan.
The members of the repatriation team from the DFA and DOH, and the flight crew will also be subjected to the 14-day quarantine, the officials said.
There were more than 40 people on the repatriation flight’s manifest but only 26 of them were at the airport as of 8 pm on Saturday, when the officials gave the media briefing. Only 10 more were expected to show up, but the repatriation team “will wait until the last minute,” said DFA-OUMWA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola.
The others may have decided to stay behind or could not make the 10-hour trip to the airport in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital city. Still others may have problems with their visas or were caught up in cases that prevent them from exiting China, Arriola added.
The repatriates will be monitored throughout the flight home and be subjected to 3 levels of medical screenings, said DOH Undersecretary Dr. Gerardo Bayugo.
Upon landing, the repatriates will disembark at the hangar, not the passenger area, of the Clark International Airport. They will then be transferred directly to the quarantine facilities at the Athletes’ Village.
There, they will each be given their own room. Medical staff will be on hand round the clock to monitor their health. Support staff will mostly be working in a separate building from the repatriates in quarantine.
The repatriates will be allowed to use mobile phones mainly to stay in touch with their families and relatives. The facility will have WiFi connection.
Among the repatriates is an infant, Arriola said. Fearing stigma, they asked the DFA not to disclose their identities to the public.
The Philippines has had 3 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, of whom one died on February 1. Philippine officials have so far placed a total of 267 people under a probe for the virus.
At least 722 people have died from the virus in China while more than 34,000 have been infected, according to the latest official figures.
The Philippine government is ready to sponsor a second flight for Filipinos in Hubei seeking repatriation, Arriola said. Filipinos outside Hubei are free to fly home on their own, she added. – Rappler.com