MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has revised its testing and quarantine protocols for inbound travelers as part of efforts to curb the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
In the latest resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), all incoming passengers, regardless of their vaccination status, are required to undergo quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the country.
The travelers must also get tested for COVID-19 on the seventh day of their quarantine.
“All arriving travelers shall undergo 14-day quarantine upon arrival. The first ten days of which shall be observed in a quarantine facility, with the remainder to be completed under home quarantine in their respective local government units of destination,” stated the IATF Resolution No. 114.
“Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing shall be conducted on the seventh day with Day 1 being the day of arrival. Notwithstanding a negative test result, the arriving traveler shall complete the facility-based quarantine period of ten days,” it added.
The IATF directed the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) to ensure strict symptom monitoring while the travelers are under facility quarantine for 10 days.
Previous protocols required passengers arriving in the Philippines to take COVID-19 testing on the fifth or sixth day of their quarantine unless they manifest symptoms at an earlier point. They were also required to stay at the quarantine facility for at least six nights.
The IATF noted in its resolution that local health authorities have received information on the existence of B.1.617 variant first detected in India, which has not been detected in the Philippines but has been seen in 26 countries.
“[T]he continued implementation of proactive measures and restrictions must be put in place to slow down the surge in COVID-19 cases, stop further spread of variants, buy time for the health system to cope, and to protect more lives,” it said.
The IATF has tasked the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the BOQ, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to issue advisories for widest dissemination regarding current testing and quarantine protocols.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) shall lead the establishment of a “One Hotel Command,” together with other agencies, to immediately and efficiently address concerns of those undergoing facility-based quarantine.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), through the Philippine National Police (PNP), shall augment the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in providing security in quarantine facilities.
The DOH shall coordinate with the OWWA, the DOTr, the DOT, the BOQ, and the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health to enhance current symptom tracking mechanisms and provide additional personnel to process and act on symptom tracking information.
The IATF also directed the DOTr to ascertain that swabbing will be done on exactly the 7th day and results delivered on the 9th day. The day of release from the quarantine facility shall be standardized on the 10th day.
Swabbers, on the other hand, shall continue the practice of double swabbing on the 7th day in case necessary for whole-genome sequencing, it added.