The government will no longer require airline flight personnel returning to the Philippines to undergo the mandatory facility-based quarantine as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said the move would mitigate personnel shortages and avoid significant disruptions to the workforce and operations of airlines.
In a memo dated Feb. 7, the CAAP said the quarantine protocols were adjusted in favor of the flight and cabin crew members returning to the Philippines, including those with layovers in the country.
It also stated that the flight personnel will no longer be placed under quarantine, but will self-monitor for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
It also stated that air operators must ensure compliance with the relevant public health regulations, policies, and established measures.
CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio said transportation must be arranged by the air operator between the aircraft and the crew’s hotel rooms (if needed), while ensuring the observance of physical distancing and other health protocols.
“At the accommodation, only one crew member will be allowed to stay per hotel room; contact with other crew members is prohibited. Use of hotel common areas is also not allowed,” he added.
Apolonio said suspected COVID-19 positive crew members and those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms during layover or in transit must immediately report to the air operator and seek medical assessment for monitoring. He added they will be “repatriated by appropriate mode of transportation to their domicile or residence.”
For crew members who have been found COVID-19 negative through evaluation in accordance with the procedures, the air operator may arrange their transportation to their domicile or residence.
CAAP director general Capt. Jim Sydiongco said protocols have been established in response to the directive of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to address the current insufficiency of manpower faced by local air operators due to the possibility of flight crew being exposed to COVID-19 positive individuals requiring quarantine.
The Department of Health (DOH) said Friday the Philippines is now at “low risk” for COVID-19 cases due to wide vaccination coverage.
The government has vaccinated some 62.2 million people, while 61.5 million have received an initial dose and 9.5 million have received booster shots as of Thursday.
Some 2.6 million jabs were administered during the third round of the Bayanihan Bakunahan Program, which ends Friday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
Of the total figure, 551,392 were first doses, 1,082,916 were second doses, and 684,267 were booster shots, she said.
Some 329,000 children ages 5 to 11, meantime, have received a COVID-19 jab in 482 vaccination sites nationwide, Vergeire added.
“As more Filipinos are protected, we will always ensure that the reopening of the economy is safe,” she said in Filipino.
All regions in the country except the Cordilleras and Davao region are under a “low risk” case classification and all regions have a negative two-week growth rate, Vergeire said. The health care capacity of all regions except Davao also have a “low risk” classification, Vergeire said.
The public is urged to get their booster shots even after contracting COVID-19 as there are no studies on how long natural immunity will last, she said.
People aged 18 and above are eligible for booster shots after three months of their second dose if their primary series was Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Pfizer, Moderna, Gamaleya Sputnik V, said Vergeire.
Those inoculated with single-dose Janssen can get their additional dose after two months, she said.
The Philippines logged 2,232 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total case count to 3,648,925.
The positivity rate was at 9.1 percent, based on 29,812 people tested for COVID-19 on Feb. 16.
The DOH also reported 79 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 55,409.
There were also 3,010 new recoveries reported, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,527,720.
There were 65,796 active cases of which 946 were asymptomatic; 60,252 were mild; 2,869 were moderate; 1,422 were severe; and 307 were critical.
Nationwide, 31 percent of ICU beds, 27 percent of isolation beds, 21 percent of ward beds, and 17 percent of ventilators, are in use.
In Metro Manila, 32 percent of ICU beds, 25 percent of isolation beds, 25 percent of ward beds, and 21 percent of ventilators, are in use.
Also on Friday, the independent OCTA Research Group said Metro Manila remains at low risk for COVID-19, despite concerns of a “Valentine’s Day spike.”