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9 Feb-17Nov: 81,000 Pinoy seafarers repatriated, 3,847 COVID-19-positive

Over 10K ‘returning overseas Filipinos’ got COVID-19
Jeremaiah Opiniano ( - November 19, 2020

ADELAIDE, Australia — Over 10,300 returning overseas Filipinos, not just those migrant workers repatriated by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), were confirmed to have contracted SARS-CoV-2.

February 9 to November 17 data from the Department of Health showed that these 10,333 with SARS-CoV-2 were mostly land-based migrants (6,486, or 62.8% of the total).

The rest (3,847) were seafarers.

Six of these returning overseas Filipinos have died, five of whom are land-based migrants, DOH’s Bureau of International Health Cooperation (BIHC) reported during a national migrant health conference that kicked off online Wednesday.

As of November 17, about 9,920 of these returning migrant Filipinos with COVID-19 have recovered, BIHC Director Dr. Maria Soledad Antonio reported.
BIHC also tallied around 601,460 returning overseas Filipinos during the same ten-month period. Of that total, only 3,811 of them remain in quarantine facilities as of November 17.

The over 601,000 returnees include some 1,986 deported irregular migrant Filipinos in Sabah, Malaysia, referred to as “transferees from Sabah” in the DOH data. Last July, the Malaysian government ordered the repatriation of irregular and detained migrants from Sabah so as to contain possible COVID-19 outbreaks.

BIHC’s data on “returning overseas Filipinos” includes the repatriated overseas workers whom the DFA, through its embassies and consulates, helped facilitate their return. The repatriated migrant workers also include seafarers whose ships were allowed by Filipino port authorities to change their crew at Manila’s international seaport.

Executive Director Iric Arribas of DFA’s Office for Migrant Workers Affairs reported that around 254,785 migrant workers —from 80 countries and 135 ships, and repatriated through 55 chartered flights— have been repatriated as of November 17.

Over 173,000 of these repatriated Filipinos are land-based migrant workers and over 81,000 are seafarers.

DOH verifies reported COVID-19 cases among returning overseas Filipinos using the guidelines of the World Health Organization’s 2005 International Health Regulations. The IHR is an international legally-binding instrument that relates to the surveillance and detection of disease outbreaks. (BIHC is the country’s focal office to the WHO for reporting diseases under IHR guidelines.)

Of the 10,333 returning overseas Filipinos, some 9,973 returnees have been confirmed COVID-19 cases as per the IHR, Antonio said. That 9,973 is classified as COVID-19 cases among returning overseas Filipinos “detected in points of entry.”

Over the same 10-month period, DOH tallied a total of 2,073 deceased overseas Filipinos whose remains were flown home. About 324 of those overseas Filipinos died of “COVID-19 related” causes.

Arribas said the DFA estimates over 111,000 Filipino workers abroad will be repatriated until year’s end.

DOH also reported the COVID-19 positivity and recovery rates among these returning overseas Filipinos. As of November 17, the positivity and recovery rates among these returning overseas Filipino are 1.93% and 95.99%, respectively.