IATF proposes easing of deployment ban on healthcare workers, but decision up to Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 10) — The country's COVID-19 task force has made a recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte to relax the overseas deployment ban on healthcare workers, but there is no decision yet, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Thursday.

He said the final decision is up to the president since he was the one who told the Inter-Agency Task Force that nurses should stay in the country as part of the "reserve force" should the COVID-19 pandemic worsen.

"Mayroong proposal na i-allow ang nurses na naayos ang papeles as of August 28. Pero kinakailangang konsultahin ang Presidente kasi ang desisyon na mag-impose muna ng moratorium ay desisyon ng Presidente at ayaw naming pangunahan ang ating Presidente," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: There is a proposal to allow nurses with complete travel and employment documents as of August 18 to leave. But the President needs to be consulted because he was the one who ordered the moratorium. We don't want to preempt him.]

Earlier this month, Roque said the government has no plans to overturn the deployment ban despite the clamor from hundreds of healthcare workers who are stuck in the country. He said that this was for the well-being of the medical workers who may contract COVID-19 if they work in countries with a high number of cases.

The government has flip-flopped on the deployment ban. In April, officials announced the exemption of all medical workers who have competed their documents as of March 8, ahead of the imposition of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. An August 17 resolution of the IATF stated the temporary suspension of the deployment of all medical and allied health workers, without mentioning any exemptions. That resolution was revised on August 20, with government allowing those who have secured contracts and overseas employment certificates before March 8 to leave the country to work.