At Manila airport, RT-PCR tests were conducted by the Bureau of Quarantine, the Philippines Coast Guard and the Philippine Red Cross. Passengers were then taken to hotels by the Department of Tourism, where they remained until they received their test results.
“For overseas workers, everything is paid for by the government’s Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Non-workers have to pay hotel costs,” Rose said. Paying non-worker returnees can choose a hotel as long as it is accredited by the Department of Health, while returning workers went to specific quarantine hotels booked for all passengers of the same flight to ease contract tracing. Passengers on the same plane are released together, but if one tests positive, all passengers are transferred to COVID-19 isolation wards for further tests.
The Philippine authorities follow strict protocols for hotel quarantine with only one person per room, which they are not allowed to leave. Three meals a day are provided in the rooms. Test results usually come 4-5 days later. Returnees also need a Quarantine Certificate to return to their provinces in transport provided by the government.
“There had been cases of local governments not accepting returnees, but the central government ordered all local authorities to allow them if they had their quarantine certificates with negative test results,” says Rose.
Earlier this month, the Philippines temporarily halted repatriation because the arrival quarantine facilities were full, and now has a limited intake of 400 passengers a day. Out of its total population of 107 million, 12 million Filipinos work abroad, mainly in the Gulf, the United States, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Europe.
Rose is happy to be back with her family and thinks her government has done a good job bringing its nationals home, and adds: “The government is really struggling because of the high influx of Filipinos and there are many lapses in the process. But overall, they are trying to get this done in a systematic and humane way.”