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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Returning OFWs STILL required to take swab test, undergo quarantine

The guidelines for OFWs “have not changed,” Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Programs Services Division staff Krista Zulueta told VERA Files Fact Check in a phone interview on March 11.

Mar 12, 2021

VERA Files

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A misleading thumbnail of a YouTube video is causing confusion among netizens regarding protocols for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Feb. 28, YouTube channel Chico Amadeo uploaded a video in which it discussed the lifting of a national requirement for local travelers to present a travel authority and undergo swab testing and quarantine.

Nearly four minutes into the seven and a half-minute video, its narrator stated that it was “unclear” how the new rules affected OFWs.

But its graphic, shown for the entire length of the clip, stated otherwise. It featured a photo of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, and text stating that “returning OFWs and non-OFWs going home to the province” will no longer undergo quarantine and swab testing.

The claim about OFWs is untrue.

The guidelines for OFWs “have not changed,” Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Programs Services Division staff Krista Zulueta told VERA Files Fact Check in a phone interview on March 11.

May swab test and 14-day quarantine pa rin po. Kailangan pa rin po (There is still a swab test and 14-day quarantine. It’s still needed),” she added.

The IATF’s Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation on the Community Quarantine, amended on Feb. 11, also stated returning OFWs and non-OFWs will have “unhampered” travel across zones to their final destination in the Philippines when they complete the 14-day facility-based quarantine (with certificate of completion from Department of Health or LGU); were required to do their 14-day quarantine at home; or were issued a travel authority upon testing negative for COVID-19, whichever comes earlier.

Chico Amadeo’s video where the misleading graphic was also used as a thumbnail, has reached over 5,500 people on Facebook (FB), according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle. The clip has been viewed over 71,000 times.

Meanwhile, at least 70 FB users have screen-grabbed the channel’s video and uploaded it on the platform, prompting several netizens to ask whether the claim about OFWs was indeed true.

The video’s headline, “WALA NG QUARANTINE AT SWAB TEST SA MGA LGU, LATEST QUARANTINE PROTOCOLS, FEBRUARY 28, 2021,” needs context.

The IATF’s Resolution No. 101, released on Feb. 26, states COVID-19 testing is no longer mandatory for the traveler unless the LGU requires it. This was reiterated by Roque during a Feb. 27 press briefing.

The same rule states that no traveler shall be required to undergo quarantine “unless they exhibit symptoms upon arrival at the LGU of destination.”

While the video’s narrator did acknowledge these new protocols in the video, the headline and thumbnail mislead viewers into thinking the new rules also applied to OFWs.

At the end of the video, the narrator encourages people to call LGUs beforehand to make sure they are aware of their destination’s quarantine protocols.

The misleading claim came after the IATF issued the resolution implementing the uniform travel protocols, which some local officials are questioning.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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