Filipino workers, students and residents who are based in Hong Kong appealed on Monday to the Philippine government to lift the travel ban to the Chinese special administrative region, citing the disadvantages that this was causing them.
A total of 131 groups of workers, scholars, migrants and other sectors signed the urgent appeal to lift the ban, which was imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) to the country.
An estimated 25,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were not allowed to depart for Hong Kong.
The joint appeal was announced during a press conference hosted by Migrante
International and attended by Filipino workers who were stranded in the country because of the travel ban.
“We all feel that the travel ban, which was imposed without a warning or consultation, is unjustified and oppressive,” the appeal read.
“It was decided upon without a comprehensive understanding of how it would affect us and was not even in line with health protocols set by the World Health Organization,” it added.
The groups also warned that Filipino workers based in Hong Kong, could lose their jobs.
Filipino students studying in Hong Kong said the ban could prevent them from complying with their academic requirements, while Filipino permanent residents said they could get separated from their families.
The groups noted that in terms of health, they would feel safe if they stayed in Hong Kong, given the assurance of improved public health care “at little or no cost to us.” They also said they had been provided with private medical insurance.
“The government’s response so far to the crisis brought about by the travel ban leaves much to be desired,” they noted.
The groups said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration offered them P10,000 as compensation, which “would not even pay for the expenses [we]had to bear after being stranded at the airport.”
They also said non-OFWs “were given no help at all, when many of them don’t even have houses in the Philippines and have to pay for food and lodging while waiting for the ban to be lifted.”
At the news conference in Migrante’s office in Quezon City, domestic helper Eleveneth Baldero feared losing her job because of the ban.
“My contract is set to expire on March 6, that is why I’m really worried. Financially, I am running out of money to sustain my stay here in the Philippines. This is why I really need to return back to Hong Kong,” she said.
One Hong Kong-based Filipino, Rowena Lee, said her ailing mother in Hong Kong, who was recently discharged from a hospital, still needs medical attention.
“She is all by herself. I was only allowed by our manager to spend my leave up to February 28. We hope that the government will lift the ban because we have needs to address and bills to pay like rent. Our family needs us,” she added.
As of Monday, the number of patients under investigation (PUIs) who tested negative from Covid-2019 jumped to 453 from 386 last Friday, the Department of Health (DoH) said.
“The decrease in our admitted PUIs reflects the department’s strengthened surveillance, assessment and management interventions for Covid-19,” Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing in Manila.
A total of 453 out of the 591 PUIs have tested negative.
Vergeire said 350 patients had been discharged, leaving 171 patients under medical watch.
She added that the test results of 22 PUIs are being awaited, while the rest of the patients have yet to submit specimens for testing.
Despite the drop in the number of suspected Covid-19 carriers, Vergeire said the DoH was not letting its guard down.
“There are still gaps in information about the Covid-19 — the source of the disease, its incubation period and all,” she said.
The country is currently free of the Covid-19 after the first and third cases in the country — two women from Wuhan, China — tested negative twice for the disease.
Both of them have since been discharged.
The second confirmed case — a 44-year-old Chinese man — was the first fatality of the disease outside China.
The Health department’s Epidemiology Bureau reported that 221 or 78 percent of the 281 patients who had contact with the first and second cases had completed home quarantine.
The bureau also said 45 were considered PUIs, but 31 were discharged, two were currently admitted, six were under strict monitoring and six had left the country.
On the third confirmed case, 255 or 34 percent of the 740 contacts were traced, with 155 having completed home quarantine.
Seventeen of the contacts who had shown symptoms and were initially deemed to be PUIs had all been discharged, the bureau said.