The government task force on COVID-19 has deferred the implementation of a shorter seven-day quarantine period for fully-vaccinated Filipinos returning from abroad to June 22, the Palace said Friday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued the statement based on the resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which says that inbound passengers must undergo a 10-day stay in a government-approved quarantine facility upon arrival.
The shorter quarantine period should have taken effect June 16, but will not be implemented until Tuesday next week.
“The IATF reiterates the strict enforcement of current testing and quarantine protocols duly approved and issued by the IATF for inbound international travelers in all ports of the country regardless of any specific protocols that may be issued to the local government units to the contrary,” Roque said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) said it has recommended the scrapping of the COVID-19 testing requirement for inbound Filipinos who were fully vaccinated abroad.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, said nothing is settled yet as the authorities must agree on how to verify the vaccination status of inbound travelers.
The government earlier shortened the mandatory quarantine period and removed the COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated individuals who got their shots in the Philippines.
Under the revised guidelines, fully vaccinated incoming travelers will only need to quarantine for seven days and will only be required to take a COVID-19 test if they manifest symptoms.
“That is also our recommendation for those Filipinos vaccinated abroad who will return to the country, but that has not been finalized yet,” Vergeire said in a briefing.
An infectious disease doctor with the DOH said on Friday that testing a traveler newly infected with COVID-19 upon his or her arrival in the Philippines will not show a COVID-19 positive result.
Dr. Edsel Salvana, of the DOH Technical Advisory group, made the warning in justifying the existing quarantine protocol requiring a 14-day quarantine for returning travelers to the Philippines.
Of the quarantine period spanning 14 days, 10 days are spent in a government facility while the remaining four days can be finished at home, he said.
“Based on our studies and that of US Center for Disease Control, an individual who is infected with COVID-19 during the travel period, when tested upon arrival...there will be zero chance that the person will test positive because the individual just got infected,” Salvana said.
That person would remain infectious for 10 days, he added.
Salvana noted that the level of COVID-19 virus on the said individual goes down to 2.4 percent by the 10th day. He said this decreases the chance of the person infecting others.
“That is why it is recommended to maintain the 10-day government facility quarantine and four days of quarantine at home unless the person is fully vaccinated,” Salvana said.
“The travel ban helps but we still need to implement stringent minimum public health standards, including the 14-day quarantine protocol,” he said.
Cebu province has been initially testing incoming travelers from overseas upon arrival, prompting the national government to divert the flights bound to Cebu to Manila from May 29 to June 12.
On June 14, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Cebu government to
follow the national government’s quarantine protocol, which tests incoming travelers for COVID-19 infection on the seventh day of quarantine.
Also on Friday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) temporarily suspended the deployment of Filipino workers to Oman.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) issued a resolution ordering the suspension of the deployment after a recent Oman government travel advisory banning the entry of all workers and travelers from the Philippines.
The Labor chief said the order was issued based on the recommendation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after Oman banned entry of travelers from the Philippines.
However, Bello did not mention the specific reason why the government suspended the deployment to Oman and how long the suspension would last.
Bello said the governing board of the POEA had an emergency meeting last Monday and decided to follow the recommendation of the DFA to “temporarily suspend and not a ban” the deployment of Filipino workers to Oman.
The Philippines deployed an average of 25,000 Filipino workers to Oman annually before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most of them household service workers.