MANILA, Philippines – The government is prepared to “cope” with the arrival of Filipinos from West Africa in case Philippine authorities recommend their voluntary repatriation from Ebola-struck countries, Malacañang said on Tuesday, October 14.
“Necessary preparations are being made on the ground to cope with the eventuality that the crisis alert level will be raised to level 3, which entails [voluntary] repatriation of Filipinos from Ebola-affected countries,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a news briefing.
The government’s focus, he said, are on the 200 overseas Filipino workers in Liberia, which has reported the greatest numbers of death due to Ebola, as well as the 511 workers in Guinea, and the 1,044 in Sierra Leone.
Of the 200 in Liberia, Coloma said 145 are Filipino peacekeepers including 115 soldiers and 29 policemen, while most of the other Filipinos in the other countries are in construction, mining, and technical industries.
“The focus of our government is on the health and safety of our countrymen who are right there, in the center of the epidemic. This is why we have ordered concerned government agencies to properly prepare, and systematically and scientifically evacuate our countrymen to distance them from the danger of the Ebola virus disease,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said 4,033 people have died from Ebola as of October 8, out of a total of 8,399 registered cases in 7 countries. The sharp rise in deaths came as the United Nations said aid pledges to fight the outbreak have fallen short of the $1 billion needed.
Among the preparations of the government include the setting up of quarantine and screening procedures in the country to ensure that Filipinos who will be returning to the Philippines “are not carriers.”
“The government is undertaking all necessary measures to protect the health and well-being of our nationals or citizens in keeping with the established protocols on managing the Ebola virus disease,” Coloma said.
He added, “According to WHO, what needs to be done is a quarantine procedure of up to 21 days.”
Currently, the Bureau of Immigration is undergoing detailed screening of citizens and travelers transiting from West African nations, said Coloma. Quarantine facilities at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicines in Mandaluyong City are being prepared to accommodate anyone as necessary.
He also said President Benigno Aquino III has yet to decided on sending Filipino health workers to help combat the virus, but emphasized there have been no invites for the Philippines to do so.
Coloma highlighted that the government’s priority is “building a strong defense” at home against Ebola.
On Monday, Aquino said the virus is of “paramount concern” to the Philippines, given the millions of “our countrymen living and working abroad.” – Rappler.com