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Some OFWs returning to the Visayas test positive for coronavirus

Marchel Espina, Ryan Macasero

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Some OFWs returning to the Visayas test positive for coronavirus

SEAFARERS. 220 repatriated seafarers aboard the St. Michael the Archangel passenger ship arrive in Cebu City on Tuesday dawn, April 28, 2020.

Gelo Litonjua/Rappler

The 5 overseas Filipino workers in Cebu test positive through PCR swabs, while 9 in Iloilo test positive through rapid testing. Over 200 OFWs returned to Visayas provinces this week.

CEBU, Philippines – Five overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who arrived in this province Monday, April 27, tested positive for coronavirus, Governor Gwen Garcia said during a press conference on Friday, May 1.

The 5 are from Liloan town, Daanbantayan town, Danao City, Consolacion town and Naga City.

The OFWs were among 230 who arrived on a ferry ship from Manila on Monday

According to Garcia, they were tested with a rapid test kit in Manila first, then retested through a PCR swab when they arrived in Cebu.

“They passed the RDT (rapid diagonstic test) in Manila, but when they arrived here, we swabbed them and it came out that 5 of them were positive (for COVID-19),” Garcia said in Cebuano.

The patients were prevented from returning to their hometowns, Garcia said.

“Don’t worry, because they’re under quarantine. I ask that when the OFWs arrived, they be put under 14-day quarantine period,” Garcia said.

The OFWs had been checked into hotels in Cebu City upon arrival for observation.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment, over 20,000 OFWs have been repatriated to the country so far. (READ: Repatriated OFWs in Visayas provinces test positive for coronavirus)


Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas confirmed that 9 of the OFWs who recently arrived in their city tested positive for the virus through rapid test.

“I don’t know what happened, but in our rapid testing, there are 9 who tested positive,” Trenas said.

“My suggestion, for the meantime while waiting for the PCR test, is that there should be a lockdown in the hotel where they were staying,” he added.

The Iloilo mayor said that he did not want the repatriated OFWs to “be a source of new cases” and informed the Office of Civil Defense in Western Visayas, as well as the governors in the neighboring provinces in the region including Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson of the possible additional cases.

He said he told OCD to study the next move as more OFWs were arriving.

The difference between the manner of testing is the PCR tests for the actual virus, while  the rapid diagnostic tests detect antibodies. This means the antibody tests are prone to false positive results, hence the need to retest through the PCR swabs. 

Negros Occidental

At least 2 repatriated OFWs were previously tested positive in Negros Occidental on April 24.

Provincial Health Officer Dr Ernell Tumimbang said an unknown number of OFWs failed to show the results of their tests to local health officials, despite claiming to have done testing in Manila.

“We thought for a while they have the results of their rapid test, but they don’t. We need to repeat the rapid testing. We trusted OWWA had made that arrangement,” he said.

The provincial government said that returning OFWs should have taken the rapid test in Manila before coming back here. 

Bacolod City, Cebu City, and Cebu province are still under lockdown or enhanced community quarantine until May 15.

As of Friday, May 1, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has climbed to 8,772, with 579 deaths and 1,084 recoveries. –

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at