Non-essential trips abroad curbed; insurance required

The Philippines, battling against rising cases of infections and deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic, has reimposed restrictions on non-essential outbound travel for Filipinos, Malacañang announced Thursday.

But the government allowed the resumption of essential outbound travel for Filipinos – these trips include business and work, medical, emergency and other humanitarian reasons which cannot be postponed.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a televised briefing, said the government’s COVID-19 task force decided on this since only one insurance company agreed to provide travel and health insurance in relation to the pandemic.

However, those with confirmed bookings as of July 20, 2020 will be allowed to leave the country subject to the conditions imposed by the government. The task force earlier lifted the ban on non-essential overseas travel on July 6.

Under the guidelines, a traveler must have adequate travel and health insurance to cover rebooking and accommodation expenses if stranded, and hospitalization in case of infection.

A traveler must also submit confirmed roundtrip tickets for those traveling on tourist visas.

The country of destination should also have no entry ban for Filipinos and the traveler must execute a declaration acknowledging the risks in traveling and follow the COVID-19 guidelines for returning Filipinos such as the mandatory RT-PCR testing and quarantine.

At the same time, Roque said he would suggest the return of the quarantine pass requirement in Metro manila – to regulate the number of people leaving their homes amid the continued rise of COVID-19 cases.

According to Roque, a colleague of his observed that some local governments in areas under the least restrictive modified community quarantine (MGCQ) still required their residents to present their quarantine passes even if they were no longer required.

“Perhaps this will be one of the suggestions later because we are now in GCQ, we need to reprimand them to minimize the number of people going out without having to lock down the economy again,” he said.

But he clarified that the Inter-Agency Task Force had yet to approve his proposal.

Quarantine passes are no longer required in checkpoints. However, individuals must present other proofs of identification or their certificates of employment.

Metro Manila is currently under GCQ, but Roque did not discount the possibility it might revert to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the second-highest quarantine classification if COVID-19 cases in the country’s metropolis continued to spike.

President Rodrigo Duterte was supposed to place Metro Manila under MECQ from July 16 to 31 but decided to retain the GCQ classification, a more relaxed community quarantine, in the area.

Meanwhile, Roque said there were now more asymptomatic and mild coronavirus disease 2019 patients proceeding to government-run facilities for isolation.

National Task Force on COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Secretary and Testing Czar Vivencio Dizon bared that they had booked an additional 2,000 hotel rooms to accommodate additional asymptomatic and mild Covid-19 patients.

In a taped interview with Roque, Dizon explained that since the “Oplan Kalinga” program was launched, isolation centers have been quickly filling up with more asymptomatic and mild Covid-19 patients.

Roque said he did not have data on the number of patients who have been transferred from their homes to isolation facilities, but vowed to collate and present data when it is available.

“According to Testing Czar Vince Dizon, we’ve had to book at least 2,000 hotel rooms now because apparently our We Heal As One Centers which can accommodate up to 3,000 people is not enough. So we have booked additional 2,000 rooms. It seems the messaging is working. Nakikinig po ang taong-bayan (The people are listening),” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.

He also thanked the public for cooperating with the government’s call to asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 patients to allow themselves to be accompanied by medical professionals to isolation centers.

There are currently four We Heal As One Centers in Metro Manila and two in Clark, Pampanga.

These facilities are the Ninoy Aquino Stadium and Rizal Memorial Stadium at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, the Philippine International Convention Center Forum Halls and the World Trade Center in Pasay City; the Asean Convention Center in Clark, Pampanga; and the National Government Administrative Center in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac.

Home quarantine is still allowed among asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 patients, provided they have their own rooms and bathrooms separate from other members of the household.

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Topics: COVID-19 task force , National Task Force , Harry Roque , Vivencio Dizon , Inter-Agency Task Force
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