MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has disclosed that the protocols for the isolation and quarantine durations for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close contacts have been updated amid the rapidly rising number of infections in the country.
During a Zoom presentation published on Wednesday, DOH Spokesperson, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the isolation period for fully vaccinated persons with mild COVID-19 will now be shortened from 10 days to seven days from onset of symptoms.
For fully vaccinated asymptomatic cases, the isolation period will be seven days from their positive RT-PCR test result.
“Ten days isolation is retained for those that are partially or unvaccinated, and those with moderate symptoms regardless of vaccination status,” Vergeire said.
“Meanwhile, the isolation period has been retained to 21 days for those with severe and critical disease, and those immunocompromised as outlined by the living CTG panel,” she added.
Vergeire said that for fully vaccinated health workers with boosters, their isolation duration can be shortened to five days by hospital infection prevention and control committee and/or provincial health offices upon careful assessment of benefits and risk.
“They shall also be expanded to other sectors with strict industry standards on IPC subject with IATF approval,” she added.
The quarantine period for fully vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts, Vergeire said, will be shortened to five days from the previous seven days.
“For the quarantine of asymptomatic close contacts for the general public, policies are to be from seven days, we shortened it to five days for those who are fully vaccinated, and we retained 14 days for partially or unvaccinated individuals,” Vergeire said.
“All individuals should also be reminded to continue monitoring their symptoms, wear their mask, and implement minimum public health standards for 14 days,” she added.
The quarantine period for fully vaccinated health workers will be cut short to five days while those with boosters may no longer undergo quarantine period
A note on the slide showing the update quarantine period stated that this is still subject to IATF approval/DOH guidelines.
The DOH said isolation is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine is for those who have been exposed and can possibly develop infection.
Vergeire also said that the testing of asymptomatic close contacts would not be required unless they developed symptoms.
“For healthcare workers that are considered asymptomatic close contacts, for the sake of uniformity, they will follow the five days quarantine similar to the general public, provided, they are fully vaccinated,” she said.
The DOH would also retain that the hospital prevention and control committees could further shorten the healthcare workers’ quarantine with boosters depending on the situations, risks, and benefits, she added.
During the presentation, Vergeire said the update in the DOH guidelines was “deemed necessary” because “the differences in guidelines for quarantine and isolation of travelers, the general public, and specific sectors like healthcare workers had been causing confusion on the ground.”
She also said that amid the continuous rise in the number of cases, most of these remain asymptomatic and mild, which showed the effectiveness of the vaccines against severe COVID-19.
Patients who contracted the Omicron variant also showed milder symptoms that those that caught the Delta variant.
“The prolonged quarantine and isolation duration has been causing strain to our healthcare system and our economy,” Vergeire said.
“Our experts believed that specifically in the Omicron variant the benefits of shortening the quarantine outweighs the risk,” she added.
Vergeire also noted that other countries were also updating their protocols on quarantine and isolation periods.
“While the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is the most aggressive example by bringing down their isolation and quarantine periods to five days, we also see other countries moving down from 14 days to 10 days,” she said.
“The updated policy of the Philippines attempts to find acceptable standards give our current context and allow more flexibility to groups and sectors that can strictly implement infection, prevention, and control procedures,” she added.
Vergeire said the updated policy will be issued in the next few days after it has been presented to and approved by the IATF.