By ARNETH ASIDDAO
MANILA — Migrant workers group Migrante International said on Tuesday that the government’s inefficient handling of Covid-19 testing for returning OFWs causes “long quarantines, threats to health and safety of OFWs and waste of money.”
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III proposed in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and health experts on Wednesday that the quarantine period for OFWs be shortened, citing OFW complaints and depleting government funds.
Migrante said that Duterte and Bello failed to address the government’s inefficiency in conducting and releasing the results of the PCR test which is what leads to prolonged quarantine periods and additional costs.
The group said that many OFWs have reported delays in Covid-19 testing and release of test results.
“Hearing Duterte and Bello talk about returning OFWs’ quarantine period is like seeing the blind lead the blind,” said Joanna Concepcion, Migrante International chairperson.
The Department of Health Technical Advisory Group (DOH TAG) also discussed the possibility of reducing the quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days and making testing optional for returning OFWs without symptoms.
However, Migrante International said that mass testing is critical to protecting migrant workers, their families and communities and must be prioritized by the Duterte government.
Concepcion said it was “enraging” that the Duterte government was even considering streamlining the quarantine process to cut costs at the expense of the health and safety of migrant workers.
Migrante also condemned Duterte for “projecting his government’s inefficiency in Covid-19 testing as compassion for OFWs.”
Duterte has expressed reservations about relaxing quarantine protocols for repatriated OFWs, saying he “cannot compromise.”
“Duterte tries to portray a long quarantine period as compassion, when it is in fact the opposite — cruelty. Refusing to address his government’s inefficiency while time and time again neglecting the importance of mass testing in its entire Covid-19 response, he is resorting to theatrics to present its weak point as a strong point,” Concepcion said.