Repatriated Filipinos from Hubei to be quarantined in New Clark City

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday, February 6, confirmed that the 45 Filipinos to be repatriated from Hubei province in China – the epicenter of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak – will be quarantined in New Clark City's Athletes' Village in Tarlac. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III inspected the facility on Thursday morning and said that the place is ready to house the returning Filipinos, who are expected to arrive early Sunday, February 9.

Upon arrival, the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Hubei will immediately be counted as patients under investigation, of which there are 178 as of Thursday. (READ: 'Novel coronavirus' or 2019 nCoV: What we know so far)

Two buildings in New Clark City, which was used during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, will be used for quarantine – one for asymptomatic patients and the other for those who develop symptoms.

There will also be a polyclinic in the facility, where returnees who develop symptoms throughout the 14-day quarantine period will be brought and treated. The two buildings will be cordoned off from the rest of New Clark City, according to Duque. 

Contact with the outside world will be minimal, Duque said. Patients will only be allowed to communicate with their families over the internet. 

The health chief also said that medical staff from 5 nearby hospitals will alternate shifts to tend to the returnees.

"We will be providing the needed medical logistics including hygiene kits, disinfectant solutions, transportation, and other things that will be needed in the quarantine process," he added.  

How repatriation will work: According to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay, Filipinos who are cleared by the Chinese government for repatriation will first undergo screening by Chinese health officials before boarding the chartered plane that will take them to Clark. 

If they are found with symptoms by Chinese health officials, they will not be allowed to come back home to the Philippines. Instead, they will be brought to hospitals in China for treatment and observation. 

If they don't show any symptoms, they will be allowed to board the plane, where 5 DOH personnel will check them for symptoms a second time. If they are absolutely not symptomatic, they will be allowed to fly home to the Philippines. Otherwise, they will be treated in Chinese health facilities.

Upon arrival in Clark, they will again be checked for symptoms. Those who have fever, coughs, and colds will immediately be brought to the facility's polyclinic and be isolated from the rest of the returnees who show no symptoms. 

According to Dulay, a team from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Wuhan, China, is already working with Chinese authorities to secure the necessary permits for the repatriation.  

"Today we already have our DFA team inside Wuhan City and they are there working on the ground preparing for the repatriation of our OFWs. They are on the ground and they're taking the risk," Dulay said.  

He also revealed that 4 of the 45 Filipinos who want to be repatriated have problems with their immigration status, which means it remains uncertain if they will be able to come home on Sunday. 

After the quarantine period, the returning OFWs will be assisted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Authority for employment concerns, the DOH and the DFA said.

The novel coronavirus that originated from Wuhan, China, has so far killed 564 and sickened over 28,000 people across the country and worldwide. The World Health Organization already declared an international emergency over the virus.

In the Philippines, 3 patients were confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus, one of whom died after complications due to severe pneumonia. (READ: World currently 'not in a pandemic' of China virus – WHO) – Rappler.com