21-day Quarantine for OFWs From Ebola-Hit Countries Stays

MANILA, Philippines (Feb.  10, 2015) — People coming from Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia will continue to be quarantined for 21 days upon arrival.

Speaking to reporters, acting Secretary Janette Garin said the Department of Health (DOH) based the decision on the recommendations of six Filipino doctors sent to West Africa.

“Before these doctors went there, there were two questions lingering (in our minds),” she said.

“First, should we continue with the quarantine and second, should we lift the deployment ban? They said we should continue with what we have been doing.”

The doctors’ recommendations were based on their interviews with Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their overall assessment of the health system in the three countries, she added.

Garin said the ban on the deployment of OFWs to these three countries will also remain on advice of the six doctors.

The government also stands pat against sending health workers to help in handling Ebola patients in West Africa, she added.

The government had sent some P90 million in assistance for Ebola patients in West Africa.

The six doctors are Alberto Ponce Belarmino II; Romulo Villamor Jr.; Emerson Malala; Rhona Marie Fulgar; Antonio Villanueva and Hamilcar Morta, all infectious disease specialists from San Lazaro Hospital.

DOH spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said the team was not tasked to care for Ebola patients but to assess the situation in the affected areas and talk to OFWs remaining in West Africa.

The doctors educated the OFWs on the danger of the Ebola virus and the measures to observe to keep themselves protected, and to assist those who want to come home, he added.

The doctors were divided into three teams with one team going to each of the three affected countries.

They were part of the rapid response team that went to the three countries last Dec. 6.

The other contingents came from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

In Sierra Leone, a Filipino missionary fears another Ebola outbreak when school reopens in March.

Speaking over the Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, Fr. Anthony Patrick Santianez said a resurgence of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone is possible, although the threat is deceasing.

“Despite protests from various organizations, schools here are set to reopen by the end of March,” he said.

The Samar native said Sierra Leonean authorities have already relaxed some measures and restrictions that had been laid down to contain the spread of the virus.

Santianez said the decision of the Sierra Leonean government is risky, given the dangers students would be exposed to.

It would be for the good of all if schools are not reopened until it is safe to do so, he added.

The Catholic Church said it continues to educate people on the nature of the disease and how to prevent its spread.

Santianez said churches in Sierra Leone still impose preventive measures.

“The faithful are requested to wash their hands and have their body temperature taken before they step inside churches,” he said.

As many as 2,921 people have died in Sierra Leone from the Ebola virus, he added.

Quarantine site
The military is leaving to higher authorities to decide on the proposal to make Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija a quarantine site for people infected with communicable diseases.

In a text message yesterday, Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said they are open to the proposal, but policy makers have to study it.

“In the spirit of bayanihan, that is possible,” he said. - PhilStar

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