IATF revises testing, quarantine protocols for inbound passengers


BEGINNING February 1, 2021, all persons allowed entry in the Philippines will be swabbed for Sars-CoV-2 only on the fifth day from their arrival, unless they develop symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) at an earlier date.

In a resolution passed on January 26, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases scrapped the requirement for a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test upon arrival.

Instead, an inbound passenger who may enter the country will be required to go straight to a quarantine facility for isolation.

If the RT-PCR test on the fifth day from the date of arrival yields negative results, the passenger will be endorsed to his/her local government unit (LGU).

The barangay health emergency response team (BHert) will then strictly monitor the passenger and ensure that the mandated 14-day quarantine is completed.

Appropriate patient management shall be observed as outlined in the guidelines of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health Omnibus Guidelines on Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment and Reintegration Strategies for Covid-19.

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Wednesday, January 27, that these changes are aimed at optimizing efficiency.

"What we need to understand is the principle of isolation first. As long as we isolate them, even though they are positive, we are assured that the infection is confined to the room (where the passenger is undergoing quarantine)," she said.

Vergeire stressed that only one person is allowed in a room to ensure isolation.

In a separate statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Czech Republic has been added to the list of countries covered by travel restrictions aimed at blocking the B.1.1.7 and other new variants of Sars-CoV-2.

Foreign passengers coming from or who have been to the Czech Republic within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines will not be allowed entry effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday, January 28, until January 31, 2021.

Filipino citizens coming from, or who have been to the Czech Republic, within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, including those arriving after 12:01 a.m. of January 28, will be allowed to enter the Philippines.

They are, however, subject to the testing and quarantine protocols outlined by the IATF.

More than 30 countries, led by the United Kingdom, are covered by the travel restrictions until January 31, 2021.

Meanwhile, the same IATF resolution also postponed the easing of age-based stay-at-home restrictions in areas under modified general community quarantine, in compliance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive.

In a previous resolution, the task force lowered the age of those who are allowed to step out of their homes to 10 years old from the current 15 years old.

Duterte, however, disapproved this on Monday, January 25, and ordered a status quo.

Only persons from 15 to 65 years old are allowed to go out of their homes even in MGCQ areas. The rest, as well as those who are immunocompromised and pregnant, must stay at home as a precaution against Covid-19.

The IATF resolution also approved the recommendation to authorize the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to commission a third party that will design, implement and manage the proposed Philippine Covid-19 vaccine information management system (Vims).

This system will ensure accurate, timely and efficient distribution and administration of the Covid-19 vaccines.

It will have the following functions: citizen vaccination capture and automation; provider management and automation; supply chain management; and Vims dashboarding, reporting and analytics. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)


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