Philippines revises quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated travelers

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2021   •   540

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has updated its protocols for inbound travelers from “green lanes” who have completed their COVID-19 vaccination, Malacañang said.

In a statement on Wednesday, President Spokesperson Harry Roque said that effective October 14, fully vaccinated foreign nationals will be required to present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure from the country of origin.

“Upon arrival, no facility-based quarantine will be required but the passenger is enjoined to self-monitor for any symptoms until the 14th day,” he added.

For fully vaccinated Filipinos, Roque said they can choose among the following options:

  • Facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative RT-PCR test taken in the quarantine facility upon arrival
  • No facility-based quarantine after getting a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin but the passenger is enjoined to self-monitor for any symptoms until the 14th day

For the unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or individuals whose vaccination status cannot be independently verified, and those vaccinated but failed to comply with the test-before-travel requirements, they shall undergo a facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative RT-PCR test taken on the 5th day, Roque said.

In the case of foreign nationals, they shall be required to secure hotel reservations for at least 6 days, he added.

Meanwhile, Roque said that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated minor children traveling with their fully vaccinated parent/s or guardians shall be required to observe the quarantine protocols corresponding to their vaccination status.

He added that a parent/guardian shall accompany the child in the quarantine facility for the full term of the latter’s facility-based quarantine period.

For the validation of vaccination status, travelers vaccinated in the country and abroad, and foreigners vaccinated in the Philippines can present either their VaxCertPH digital certificate, Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) / World Health Organization (WHO)-issued International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICV), or the national digital certificate of the foreign government where they were vaccinated.

“In the case of foreigners vaccinated abroad, they can present WHO-issued ICV, or the national digital certificate of the foreign government, which has accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal agreement,” Roque said.

IATF revisits ‘no vaccine, no work’ policy

Maris Federez   •   December 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) announced that it is revisiting Resolutions 148-B and 149 on the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of onsite workers.

Department of Health (DOH) Usec. Charade Mercado-Grande, who is in the DOH-IATF Secretariat, said the resolutions mandating the “no vaccine, no work” policy is under review.

“The matter is already under review and discussion po, Mr. Chair,” she said during the House Committee on Labor and Employment hearing on Tuesday.

The House panel had earlier sent a letter to the IATF, urging the body to suspend the resolution that allows business establishments to implement the ‘no vaccine, no work” policy among onsite employees.

Mercado-Grande confirmed that the resolution is still in effect despite calls from members of the House to have it suspended.

Committee chair Rep. Eric Pineda expressed dismay over the seeming disregard of the IATF to their call.

“Wala man lang sagot sa amin, ni ha ni ho. Di sana tumawag man sila o nagparamdam man lang sila. But the way we feel it, especially my committee members, para kaming napapahiya dito. Para kaming hindi binibigyan ng importansya ng mga amo ninyo,” Pineda said.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Ferdinand Gaite shared the same sentiment.

“Tila hindi binibigyan ng pagpapahalaga itong napakalaki nang implication sa ating mga manggagawa sa kasalukuyan,” he said.

With this, Pineda warned that it will issue a subpoena to the officials of the IATF should the body continue to ignore their panel’s invitation to attend the hearing.

“Kasi we don’t want na umabot sa punto na this committee will now subpoena the members of the IATF just to compel them to attend this hearing,” Pineda said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

DOH Sec. Duque, pabor na manatili sa COVID-19 Alert Level 2 ang Metro Manila

Robie de Guzman   •   December 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Naniniwala si Health Secretary Francisco Duque III na dapat munang manatili sa COVID-19 Alert Level 2 ang Metro Manila sa kabila ng patuloy na pagbaba ng naitatalang panibagong kaso ng coronavirus infections.

Ayon kay Duque, ito ay dahil sa banta ng Omicron COVID-19 variant na kumakalat ngayon sa maraming bansa.

“Para sa akin, dapat siguro na tama lang na manatili muna tayo sa alert level 2. Bakit kamo? Unang-una, ang mobility pataas na naman ngayong kapaskuhan, alam natin iyan. At merong nagbabadya o banta ng Omicron variant,” ani Duque.

Ang Metro Manila ay nasa ilalim ng Alert Level 2 hanggang Disyembre 15.

Aniya, pag-uusapan ng Inter-Agency Task Force sa pagpupulong sa Huwebes kung kailan maaaring ibaba ang rehiyon sa Alert Level 1.

Kung mananatili ang alerto matapos ang Disyembre 15, sinabi ni Duque na makakatulong pa rin naman ito upang makabawi ang maraming negosyo lalo na ngayong holiday season.

“Anyway, malaki-laki na rin ng bahagi ng ekonomiya na binuksan natin under the Alert level 2 at ang mga establisymento–ang kanilang kapasidad nasa 50 percent,” ang wika ng DOH chief.

Sa ngayon ay wala pang napapaulat na kaso ng Omicron variant sa Pilipinas.

Ayon sa pamahalaan, mataman nitong binabantayan ang mga kaso ng Omicron na naitatala sa ibang bansa pati na ang mga karagdagang impormasyon ukol sa bagong variant mula sa mga eksperto.

Ayon kay acting Presidential Spokesperson at Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, kabilang sa kanilang mga inaantabayanan ay ang galaw ng virus at kung gaano ito kabilis makahawa kumpara sa iba pang variant tulad ng Delta, Alpha, at Beta.

“Everyone is monitoring kung ito bang Omicron is more fatal, yun ang pinaka-aabangan natin. If it is more fatal, if it is more severe, if it is more indeed transmissible. So, we still await the final word from the WHO.

Sinabi naman ni Duque na batay sa mga nakukuha nilang inisyal na datos mula sa WHO, lumalabas na nagdudulot ng mild cases ng COVID-19 ang Omicron.

“So far sa ating pakikipagpulong sa WHO country representative Dr. Rabi Abeyasignghe, sinabi niya na lumalaki ang datos na nagpapakita na mukhang mild ang symptoms and no deaths reported as of yet patungkol sa Omicron variant pati hospitalization mukhang hindi sumisipa,” ani Duque.

Ang Omicron variant ay unang natuklasan sa South Africa. Sinasabing heavily mutated ito at may posibilidad na mas nakakahawa pa kumpara sa ibang variant ng COVID-19.

Sa ngayon, ayon sa WHO, ay patuloy pang pinag-aaralan ng mga dalubhasa ang nasabing variant, partikular na ang transmission rate nito at epekto sa ginagamit na gamot sa COVID-19 patients at mga bakuna.

PHL attains ‘substantial population immunity’, OCTA Research fellow says

Robie de Guzman   •   December 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines may have already attained “substantial population immunity” to COVID-19 amid decreasing number of coronavirus infections recorded in the past few weeks, an OCTA Research fellow said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during the pre-taped public address aired late Monday, OCTA Research fellow Nicanor Austriaco said the country had the highest mobility levels in the past 20 months and experienced the lowest levels of cases and hospitalizations during the same period even with the presence of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Delta is said to be the most contagious variant of COVID-19.

“And so what these three mean together is that it suggests that we have attained substantial population immunity from natural infections and vaccinations in the urban areas of the Philippines because the pandemic has raged and spread primarily in our cities and in our first class municipalities,” Austriaco said.

“And so the fact that the virus is struggling to find new Filipinos to infect, suggests that we have attained substantial population immunity,” he added.

Comparing the Philippines with its three neighbors in Southeast Asia, Thailand and Malaysia still haven’t seen dip in cases despite having much earlier surges and the two nations are still experiencing 5,000 cases per day.

Vietnam, he said, also had a Delta peak. Unfortunately, Delta has resurged and Vietnam is still experiencing significant numbers of COVID-19 at 15,000 or so every day.

The difference, Austriaco noted, is that the Philippines had substantial waves of previous variants especially the Alpha and Beta, which struck the country in March and April of this year unlike these three other countries.

“And so combining the vaccinations and the natural immunity, what you are seeing here is that many of our cities where the pandemic tends to focus, are now stable enough to prevent transmission,” he said.

The OCTA Research fellow also advised Filipinos not to panic amid the threat posed by COVID-19 Omicron variant, and instead move with caution in celebrating the holidays.

“And so this is not the time to panic. It is the time to be careful. We have to prepare. But we also have to celebrate especially since this is Christmas,” he said.

Austriaco suggested that the country prepare its hospital infrastructure and increase healthcare workers staffing capacity, as he noted reports on nursing staff shortages in Metro Manila during the Alpha and Delta surges in the country.

The government also has to continue vaccinating and boosting the immunity of its population especially senior citizens, he added.

He likewise suggested the strengthening of population immunity around international gateways as the Omicron variant will likely enter the country through an airport.

The Omicron, which was recently classified as variant of concern by the World Health Organization, has not yet been detected in the Philippines.

“I must urge you to get vaccinated because Omicron, when it arrives in the Philippines, will find every unvaccinated Filipino. And you will get sick, and even though it is mild, it is still COVID-19,” he said.

The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated more than 38 million Filipinos against COVID-19.

Since March, the government has administered 91.7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses – more than 56 million of this number was given as first doses.

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