MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has added seven more countries to its Red List in a bid to control the possible entry of a new, heavily mutated COVID-19 variant called Omicron, Malacañang said.
In a statement, the Palace announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has placed Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy under the Red List effective November 28 until December 15.
This is in addition to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique that were earlier placed in the Red List due to the threat of Omicron, which was first detected in the area.
This means that travelers, regardless of vaccination status, who are coming from or who have been to the Red List areas within the last 14 days prior to their arrival will not be allowed to enter the Philippines.
The IATF said that only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry. However, they will be subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for Red List territories.
The Philippine government said that passengers already in transit and all those who have been to the said Red List areas within 14 days before their arrival to the Philippines, who arrive before 12:01 a.m. of November 30, 2021, shall not be subject to this restriction from entry.
“They shall nevertheless be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days with testing on the 7th day, with day 1 being the date of arrival, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR result,” the Palace said.
Passengers who have already arrived prior to November 28, and are currently undergoing quarantine pursuant to the classifications of their country of origin, shall complete their respective testing and quarantine protocols.
Passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, merely transiting through the Red List areas, will not be deemed as having come from these areas if they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry into such country by its immigration authorities.
“Upon their arrival in the Philippines, passengers covered by the immediately preceding paragraph shall comply with existing testing and quarantine protocols,” the Palace said.
The IATF likewise approved the temporary suspension of testing and quarantine protocols for countries/jurisdictions/territories classified as “Green” effective immediately until December 15, 2021.
Passengers from Green List areas who arrived in the Philippines prior to November 28 may still follow quarantine protocols assigned to their country of origin upon the date of their arrival, it added.
“Except for countries classified as ‘Red,’ the testing and quarantine protocols for all inbound international travellers in all ports of entry shall comply with the testing and quarantine protocols for ‘Yellow’ list countries,” the Palace said.
The Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with the local government units (LGUs) have been directed to identify and locate passengers who arrived within 14 days prior to November 29, 2021, from countries classified as Red, and require them to complete quarantine under a home quarantine set-up for 14 days from date of arrival and undergo RT-PCR if symptoms develop.
The IATF also approved the temporary suspension of IATF Resolution No. 150-A providing for the entry of fully vaccinated nationals of non-visa required countries.
“With Omicron designated as a Variant of Concern, the IATF likewise approved the recommendations to strengthen local COVID-19 response,” the Palace said.
“These include strongly enjoining the local government units to heighten their alert for increasing and clustering of cases and emphasizing the need for active case finding; to immediately conduct contact tracing and isolation of cases detected from case surveillance among the community, including domestic and international travelers; and to use RT-PCR testing in order to allow for whole-genome sequencing of collected samples,” it added.
The task force also directed the Department of Health to ensure health system capacity is prepared to address increase of COVID-19 cases.
It also directed the Sub-Technical Working Group on Data Analytics to prepare models to show potential impact of the Omicron variant to prevailing protocols and approvals of the IATF.