OFWs exempted from travel ban to Hong Kong, Macau

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 18) — Filipino workers are now exempted from the Philippines' travel ban to Hong Kong and Macau, the Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The DOH in a statement said the government's inter-agency task force dealing with the coronavirus outbreak has "agreed to authorize travel to Hong Kong and Macau for permanent residents of the two Special Administrative Regions, Filipinos leaving for study and Overseas Filipino Workers provided the travellers sign a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved. "

Thousands of OFWs bound for Hong Kong and Macau were left stranded in the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte on February 2 imposed a travel ban to China and its special administrative regions. They have appealed to the government to allow them to return to their jobs.

The DOH said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging infectious Diseases also decided during a meeting Tuesday to expand exemptions for entry to the Philippines from China, Macau and Hongkong. The task force's resolution now allows Filipinos and their foreign spouses or children, and holders of diplomatic visas, to enter the country provided they go through a 14-day quarantine period. Previously, only Filipinos and permenant resident visa holders were allowed entry from those areas, subject to the mandatory quarantine.

Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Bridigo "Dodo" Dulay also earlier tweeted that OFWs returning for work in Hong Kong and Macau have been exempted from the outbound travel ban.

There are over 210,000 Filipinos working in Hong Kong and another 32,000 in Macau, majority of them household workers.

The government offered each worker stranded in the country P10,000 cash aid. They were also provided dormitories and food.

The task force also reiterated government's commitment to bring home all Filipino passengers and crew of the M/V Diamond Princess -- the cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, Japan -- who will request repatriation.

There more than 500 Filipino crew members on board the ship.