Filipinos repatriated from China back home on February 8

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos repatriated from China, where the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) had claimed hundreds of lives, will arrive in the Philippines on Saturday, February 8.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the announcement on Wednesday, February 5, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte held a Cabinet meeting that tackled the 2019 nCoV, among other matters.

Panelo said in a statement that during the Cabinet meeting, Health Secretary Francisco Duque IIII informed Duterte that repatriated Filipinos will be brought straight to Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, where they would undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“Secretary Duque reported that they are now preparing Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija as a quarantine area, which can accommodate 10,000 individuals. The arrival of the initial batch of repatriated Filipinos will be on Saturday at the Clark Airport and transportation to Fort Magsaysay has already been prepared,” Panelo said.

What to expect. Upon Duterte’s orders, Duque will meet repatriated Filipinos who would undergo mandatory quarantine “to properly address people affected in detail.”

The group will be transported to the drug treatment and rehabilitation center in Fort Magsaysay which was built in late 2016. The facility was supposed to house up to 10,000 drug dependents who were expected to surrender to the government in its “war on drugs.”

However, the facility has been mostly vacant, as most illegal drug users who surrendered to authorities were placed on community-based rehabilitation.

On Tuesday, February 4, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana gave assurances that the facility, which is located in a military reservation, was ready and accessible. He said health officials would take charge of monitoring and caring for repatriated Filipinos.

Kung ano ang kailangan nila for security (Whatever their security needs) – we can secure the area. But we will not be involved in the quarantine, that is not our competency,” Lorenzana told reporters.

The latest in the Philippines. Philippine authorities said were monitoring 105 persons for the novel coronavirus as Tuesday.

So far, the Department of Health has confirmed two cases of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines, including the first death outside China – a 44-year-old Chinese man who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan. The man was the country's second confirmed case of 2019-nCoV, and a companion of the first patient, a 38-year-old Chinese woman.

As of Wednesday, the virus has killed 492 people and infected over 23,000 worldwide. – with a report from JC Gotinga/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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