DEPLOYMENT of newly-hired nurses and other health care workers for overseas postings has been temporarily stopped by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) after the sector's 5,000 annual deployment cap has been reached.

The deployment suspension came at a time when the unemployment rate in the country soared by 8.7 percent or 4,138 million unemployed for the month of April from 7.1 percent or 3,441 unemployed in March.

Under Advisory 71-2021, series of 2021, signed by POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia, newly hired nurses, nursing aides, and nurse assistants are not allowed to leave for overseas jobs.

"POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia on Wednesday disclosed that hundreds of health care workers covered by approved job orders were affected by the ban and have to wait until next year before their documents could be processed and issued the corresponding OEC.

Olalia pointed out though that there were exemptions to the rule that include, among others, the "balik manggagawa (returning workers)" who are in the country for vacation.

"BMs (balik manggagawa) are excluded, including the deployment [of health care workers] under government to government track, And so with UK (United Kingdom) as declared by the secretary of labor," Olali told The Manila Times.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID)ATF, through the recommendation of Bello, had approved the UK's request for exemption from the 5,000 yearly deployment limit.

"The general policy is there is a cap of 5,000 per year, but UK is exempted upon their request. They were exempted from the deployment cap," Bello had said.

Germany has also asked for exemption but Bello said the Philippine government is unlikely to grant it because the country also needed health care workers to man hospitals and other health facilities that cater to patients infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Bello also said that as per study by a technical working group, composed of personnel from the DoLE, Department of Health (DoH), POEA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), there is an apparent shortage of nurses and health care workers.

The POEA imposed a temporary suspension in the deployment of health care workers in April 2020 in a bid to ensure a steady supply of health care professionals in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The labor department has a pending request before the IATF to increase the 5,000 yearly cap.