Gov’t to give cash aid to OFWs affected by China travel ban

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the temporary travel ban to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau will receive assistance in the form of cash, accommodation, and transportation from the government. 

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said in a Monday, February 3, memorandum that it would provide P10,000 to each OFW supposed to travel back to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, but was instead stranded in Manila airports after the announcement of a travel ban to and from the said areas affected by the 2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV outbreak. 

Aside from cash, they will also be accommodated in a OWWA halfway house. The agency will pay for their travel back to their provinces of origin. OWWA said OFWs may avail of the assistance from OWWA officers at the aiports or through the OWWA hotline at 1348.

Though they have no precise numbers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) estimated that around 300 OFWs were stranded in Manila airports on Monday, February 3, after the travel ban was imposed. Most of them were bound for Hong Kong and Macau, DOLE added.  

Malacañang had initially announced a travel ban to and from Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan, ground zero of the outbreak. (READ: PH expands visa suspension for travelers from China, Hong Kong, Macau)

But the travel ban was expanded Sunday, February 2, to cover all of mainland China and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, shortly before the Department of Health (DOH) announced the second case of 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease in the country. 

The ban means that all non-Filipinos traveling from China and its special administrative regions would be barred from entering the country. Travelers coming from transit points in Hong Kong will be covered by the travel ban as well. Likewise, Filipinos would be barred from departing for China, Hong Kong, and Macau. 

Airlines have also followed suit, with several flights to the 3 areas canceled in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

The Philippines also temporarily stopped issuing visas to travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The World Health Organization has called the situation in China a public health emergency of international concern, but has not recommended travel and trade restrictions. Even so, the Philippines and neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia have imposed travel restrictions in an attempt to quell the spread of the disease. (READ: China coronavirus outbreak: How governments have reacted)

So far, the Philippines has confirmed two cases of 2019-nCoV. They are imported cases, the patients being a couple traveling from Wuhan, China. One of them, a 44-year-old man, has died, while his companion, a 38-year-old woman, is no longer showing symptoms, according to the DOH. 

As of Monday afternoon, February 3, the novel coronavirus has killed 362 people and infected over 17,800 people worldwide. – Rappler.com