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Remaining students in Philippine plea for Gov’t to prioritise their repatriation

Anxiety and depression is taking a toll on the mental health of five local students who are stuck in quarantine at a hotel in the Philippines for almost a year now. 

Regal Residence Hotel, in Quezon city, Metro Manila where five local students have been staying in quarantine since March last year. Photo Supplied.

Triggered by isolation and fear, the five Solomon Islands Government (SIG) sponsored students are pleading for the government to prioritise their repatriation flight. 

Speaking on their behalf through a phone interview from his quarantine room, spokesperson, an Aviation student Junior Aba said, the government has planned to repatriate them this month, however, they heard through a Talk Back Show yesterday that the repatriation flight has been moved for next month.

“If they again move the repatriation flight it will cause another problem in regard to our visa and that is what we are worrying about right now,” Aba said. 

The five students have been in quarantine at the Regal Residence Hotel in Quezon  City, Metro Manila since March last year. 

Aba said they have satisfied all the Covid-19 mandatory requirements of SIG which include three Covid-19 tests and complete doses of vaccination.

“We have completed all the mandatory requirements needed by SIG. Before moving in this hotel last year, we did three Covid tests to prepare us for the repatriation flight, after moving in we waited for months and that was when our visa expired.

“We asked the National Scholarship Division (NSD) for Covid-19 emergency allowance and they paid us, which assisted us to extend our visa. They told us that they would repatriate us later on but that plan has been repeatedly moved and prolonged up to now,” Aba said.   

He said a new requirement was then given to them to get complete vaccination which they later comply with. 

“One frustrating thing is they promised to bring the vaccination to our doorstep but that has repeatedly been delayed as well, and so we have to go and get our vaccines in vaccination sites in the city. 

“We are surprised to see students and nationals in other countries have been repatriated back home including those that went to Dubai, have returned home,” Aba, who only had one year to complete his studies, said. 

He said the recently reported positive Covid cases were brought into the country by returning nationals from these countries. 

Aba said time is wasted staying at a hotel in which final year students should have utulised to complete their study.

“Another student and I were supposed to complete our study but due to a call by SIG to repatriate last year we have no choice,” he said. 

Since the repatriation flight is again moved, the students’ only hope rests on the Covid-19 Emergency allowance.

“Now that they again extend our repatriation, our only hope is for the Government to give us a Covid-19 allowance so that we can extend our visa for the repatriation next month as they promised in yesterday’s Talk-back Show,” Aba adds.

He said staying in quarantine this long is affecting their mental health each day, and at one stage a student comes to a point of showing mentally unstable signs. 

“Locked up in a room every day, there are all sorts of things that can come to mind, we are mentally affected. One night one of the Solomon Islands student we are staying here was running and screaming during the night. We thought the student was possessed but maybe it was a sign of a lot of anxiety because of the long period we are in quarantine,” said Aba.  

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education Dr Franco Rodie in a Talk Back Show yesterday said there are currently seven Solomon Islands students still living in the Philippines. 

He said the Government hopes to bring them home before the end of February. 

Dr Rodie said this is because the students still have some health and quarantine requirements that need to be sorted out.

by Jared Koli

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