Filipino workers returning from low-risk countries will no longer be tested for COVID

Travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Photo: Department of Transport/FB
Travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Photo: Department of Transport/FB

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arriving from countries that have low numbers of COVID-19 cases will no longer be tested upon arrival in the Philippines, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said today in a virtual media conference.

Vergeire said that OFWs just need to pass symptoms screening and follow minimum health protocols to be allowed entry into the country.

“When the OFWs arrive here, we won’t test them, they just need to comply with minimum health standards [so] they can go back to their provinces. But whatever the local governments would require for them to enter their province they have to comply,” Vergeire said.

Read: PhilHealth to settle PHP930 million debt to PH Red Cross, says chief Gierran

“Our experts agreed and they are saying that all of these people especially from those areas that have [low] transmission, for these countries that have low to mid-prevalence, the probability that this individual to have this certain disease is small. Because before they leave these areas they have been tested. Most of these OFWs, they bring with them their RT-PCR results which are [taken] two to three days prior to travel,” the government spokesperson added.

“When they arrive here, the experts recommend that we just do symptoms check. When we do our symptoms check and they are clear, when they do not have symptoms even in the past 14 days, they can be allowed to go back to their provinces.”

Vergeire added that the new policy has nothing to do with the controversy involving the Philippine Red Cross and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).  The Red Cross announced that it will stop providing free COVID-19 tests to returning overseas Filipino workers, frontliners, and passengers in seaports and airports because the PhilHealth has failed to subsidize the tests.

Meanwhile, the chief of the state insurer, Dante Gierran, vowed that the PhilHealth will pay the PHP930 million (US$19.114 million) debt that it owes to the Red Cross.

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