Coronavirus layoffs to send home 43,000 OFWs by June

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Due to widespread unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, some 43,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are expected to return home to the Philippines between this month and June, the labor department today said.

“They are losing their jobs. Fortunately, most of our countrymen decided to stay [abroad] despite losing their jobs there. They are still hoping that they can find work [overseas],” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said in English and Filipino, in an interview with digital show Teleradyo.

Read: ‘Bayanihan’ in Thailand: Group helps Filipinos left unemployed by COVID-19

Bello added that some 27,000 OFWs have been repatriated as of yesterday, and of that number, 16,000 are expected to complete a 14-day quarantine and COVID-19 swab test this week.

Meanwhile, the labor secretary added that many OFWs stranded abroad have also become a problem, though he did not provide exact numbers. He said these OFWs are scattered in many countries “including in Kuwait, which is currently under lockdown there and they have no way of getting out of the country… they are currently under shelter with the Department of Labor [office in Kuwait].”

The labor secretary, however added that “43,000 [OFWs] are coming, which is why we’re rushing to return [the quarantined] OFWs back to their homes, those who have gone through health protocols, who have gone through swabbing tests and 14-day quarantines. They are just waiting for a certificate from the bureau of quarantine,” the labor secretary said, adding some repatriates have gone impatient from the protocols.

Earlier this week, authorities said they slapped charges on impatient OFWs who fled quarantine after later learning that they tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read: Super Spreaders: Coronavirus-positive OFWs to face charges for escaping quarantine

Bello said that they have apprehended the OFWs and confirmed that only one of the four who fled quarantine tested positive for the virus, and has now been sent to the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa. The other three were still considered persons under investigation for the disease.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, at least 2 million workers have been laid off due to the lockdown imposed since March 17 to curb the spread of the pandemic. Over the weekend, the government has allowed some industries, including malls, to partially reopen, in an attempt to restart the economy, provided they practice social distancing and follow health protocols imposed by the government. The eased quarantines have been met with criticisms.

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