• POEA suspends deployment of new OFWs in West Africa

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    The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has suspended processing and deployment of newly hired overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bound for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa due to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) there.

    Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said only returning OFWs with existing employment contracts will be allowed to leave for those countries.

    “Under such circumstance, we will only allow a group of OFWs under special circumstances to go back to their host country,” Baldoz said.

    The temporary deployment ban came after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised Crisis Alert Level 1 to Crisis Alert level 2, or the restriction phase in those countries, she said.

    The EVD is an extremely contagious disease that can be spread through close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected organism—both human and animal. There is no known cure for the disease.

    The incubation period for EVD is two to 21 days and the virus becomes contagious when the affected person already exhibits symptoms.

    POEA records show that there were 880 OFWs in Guinea, 632 in Liberia and 1, 979 in Sierra Leone as of May 2014.

    The International Manpower Corp., a local recruitment agency has reportedly notified the OWWA that its foreign principal, ISU Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd, has imposed an immediate repatriation of its employees working in a jobsite in Sierra Leon for the workers’ safety and as a precautionary measure.
    Twenty OFWs are employed at the said jobsite.

    “OWWA has already provided the Department of Health’s (DOH) Bureau of Quarantine the names and the flight details of the 20 OFWs from Sierra Leone so they could be subjected to the quarantine protocol,” Baldoz said.

    However, she clarified that no Filipino has been afflicted with the disease.

    On the other hand, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo reported to Baldoz that the EVD incidence has reached 600, including 400 deaths—bringing the mortality rate to about 66.6 percent across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    Romulo added that an official of the Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF) earlier announced that the EVD outbreak in West Africa was “out of control.”

    In another development, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of
    Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Philippines was tapped by the DOLE to immediately take measures to mitigate the risk of exposure of Filipinos in the affected areas and prevent or minimize the spread of the disease in the country.

    Further, the DOLE official urged OFWs in the said countries to limit their non-essential movements and to avoid going to the public places to prevent their exposure to the disease.

    “It will also be wise for them to prepare for the eventuality of evacuation. The DOLE is working closely with the DFA in ensuring the safety and well-being of OFWs in those countries,” she added.

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