PH expands ‘red list’, bans travelers from 7 more countries due to Omicron

Robie de Guzman   •   November 28, 2021   •   269

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.

DOH reiterates recommendation to double face mask

Maris Federez   •   January 26, 2022

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) once again stressed the importance of taking extra effort to ensure one’s protection and safety against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

DOH Spokesperson Usec Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department is encouraging the use of double face masks to maximize the filtration of particulate matter.

“Mag-double mask upang ma-maximize ang protection at ang filtration. Atin din pong siguraduhin na hindi po maluwag at tama ang fit ng mask na ating susuotin,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire said air particles or viruses are tightly filtered if the face mask being worn is thick and is securely fit to cover the nose and the mouth.

Health officials also said that they still do not recommend the use of cloth masks alone.

“Iyong cloth, definately, ay dapat palitan ng surgical mask. Kung kaya pwede mag-doble ng surgical mask. At kung ikaw ay nagwo-work sa mga enclosed areas or iyong mga high-risk setting, iyong mga kausap mo ay talagang positive like sa mga laboratory or clinic maganda iyon KN-95,” said Dr. Ted Herbosa, a medical adviser of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19.

Infectious disease expert Doctor Rontgene Solante said that if one wants to use a cloth mask, it must be worn on top of a surgical mask for a secured fit.

“Even a surgical mask is still okay. Iyong cloth mask pwedeng doblehin lang with a surgical mask para lang karagdagang proteksyon. Pero ang importante dito ay wearing it consistently and wearing it properly,” Solante said.

Solante added that while N-95 masks ensure more protection against viruses, due to limited supply, health workers must be given priority in using them as they are the ones directly in contact in taking care of COVID-19 patients.

“Kung gagamit man tayo ng KN-95 o N-95 baka mahirapan tayo sa supply. Itong mga mask na ito ay napaka-importante nito sa mga healthcare workers o healthcare facilities,” the health expert said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Aileen Cerrudo)

 

Self-test kits na aprubado ng FDA, mabibili lang sa mga otorisadong drug outlets – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Maaari nang mabili sa mga lisensiyado at aprubadong drug outlets ang dalawang brand ng COVID-19 Antigen Self-test kits, ayon sa Department of Health (DOH).

Ito ay matapos aprubahan ng Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ang aplikasyon ng special certification ng dalawang kumpanya para sa self-test kits na tinatawag na Abbot’s Panbio at Labnovation Technologies SARS-CoV2 Antigen rapid test.

Una nang iniulat ni FDA officer in charge Oscar Gutierrez na nabigyan na ng sertipikasyon ang dalawang brand at maaari nang gamitin sa bansa.

“Ang Panbio COVID-19 antigen self-test kit ng Abbot available po siya sa 1, 4, 10, and 20 tests per box. At yung SARS-CoV-2- antigen rapid test ng Labnovation Technologies Incorporated ito po ay self-test for home use din. Available po siya ng 2,5, and 20 tests per box,” ani Gutierrez.

Pero paalala ng Department of Health na may tamang proseso at panahon ang paggamit ng self-test kits upang masegurong tama ang ilalabas nitong resulta.

Ayon kay Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, mas mainam gamitin ang self-test kits kung may sintomas ang isang tao upang matiyak na accurate ang resulta ng kit.

“Please use it rationally, use it at the right time at tamang proseso. Ibig sabihin gagamit lang po kayo ng test kapag kayo ay nakakaramdam ng sintomas dahil ang antigen test po ay most accurate pa rin kapag kayo po ay nakakaranas ng sintomas dulot ng COVID-19,” ani Vergeire.

Ang panawagan naman ng Infectious Diseases expert na si Dr. Rontgene Solante, bigyang-prayoridad sa paggamit ng test kit ang mga may sintomas at nasa vulnerable population gaya ng mga matatanda upang agad malaman ang kanilang kondisyon at malapatan ng karampatang lunas.

“I-prioritize natin ang paggamit nitong antigen test doon sa mga may symptoms at vulnerable population. Bakit? Because these are the population that are kailangan na kung mag-positive meron tayong gamot na mga anti-viral or monoclonal antibodies para hindi po lalala ang mga infections nila to severe COVID at hindi sila maho-hospitalize,” ani Solante.

May pagkakaiba rin ang Antigen self-test kits sa rapid test kits na kalimitang ginagamit sa mga ospital at laboratory kaya payo ng DOH sa publiko na basahing mabuti ang instructional manual na nakapaloob sa bibilihing test kits.

“Ang kaibahan nito ay iyong pong specimen na kinokolekta. Ito pong mga self-administered test kits usually would have nasal specimens po ang kinukuha. Ibig sabihin kapag nasal specimen, di ganun kalalim sa inyong ilong ang pagkuha ng specimen for this test kits compared doon sa current na kailangan na guided siya ng health worker at mas malalim ang kinukuhang specimens para rito,” ang paliwanag ni Vergeire.

Paalala rin ng DOH na ang self-test kits ay available lamang sa mga otorisadong botika at hindi maaaring bilhin online.

“Bumili lamang ng self-administered test kits na aprubado nf FDA o galing po sa mga FDA-licensed drug outlets para lagi po tayong makakasiguro ana ito ay ligtas at lagi po tayong makakaseguro na makakapagbigya ng accurate na resulta,” ani Vergeire.

Paalala rin ng DOH sa publiko na i-check ang expiration date ng self-test kits at itago ang opisyal na resibo ng botikang pinagbilhan nito.

Sa ngayon ay isinasapinal na ng DOH ang guidelines, kaakibat ang evaluation ng Research Institute for Tropical Medicine at FDA hinggil sa COVID-19 self-test kits.

“Ang kagawaran namn po ng kalusugan are on our final stages dito po sa pagssusulat ng polisiya at guidelines kung paano natin gagamitin ito sa mercado,” ani Vergeire.

“Siguro po within the week makakapaglabas na tayo nitong guidelines natin,” dagdag pa niya.

Omicron sub-variant na BA.1 at BA.2 naitala na sa Pilipinas – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Kinumpirma ng Department of Health (DOH) na may napaulat nang kaso ng dalawang sublineage ng Omicron COVID-19 variant sa Pilipinas.

Ang BA.1 at BA.2 ang dalawang sub-variant ng Omicron na unang napaulat sa ibang bansa.

Ayon kay DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, ang BA.2 ang predominant ngayon sa mga kasong naitala sa sampung rehiyon sa bansa batay sa pinakahuling whole genome sequencing run.

Ang BA.1 naman aniya ay nakita sa mga nagpositibo sa COVID-19 sa Bicol Region ay returning overseas Filipinos.

Batay sa limitadong datos ukol sa nasabing sublineage, lumalabas na wala naman itong pagkakaiba sa epekto ng parent variant na Omicron.

“Sa ngayon, kailangan natin maipaalala at tandaan ng ating mga kababayan na walang nakitang significant difference sa clinical presentation ang BA.1 at BA.2,” ani Vergeire.

“Kinakailanga pa rin po ng masusing pagaaral dahil limitado pa rin naman ang mga obserbasyo na ating nakukuha,” dagdag pa niya.

Sa kasalukuyan ay nasa 535 ang kaso ng Omicron sa Pilipinas.

Una nang sinabi ng DOH na maituturing nang predominant variant ang Omicron sa National Capital Region at sa iba pang bahagi ng bansa dahil patuloy pa rin ang mataas na kaso ng COVID-19.

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