IATF lifts requirement for airlines to set up COVID-19 isolation areas on domestic flights

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2020   •   446

MANILA, Philippines – Airline companies operating domestic flights will no longer be required to reserve a portion of the aircraft cabin as an isolation area for passengers showing symptoms of novel coronavirus disease, the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) leading the COVID-19 response said.

In a resolution approved on Thursday, the IATF said this measure “shall no longer be mandated to be part of the COVID-19 health protocols for domestic flights.”

The lifting of this requirement was upon the recommendation of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

The IATF also directed local government units (LGU) to relax entry protocols such as test-upon-arrival requirement imposed upon airline crew layovers/positioning due to emergency situations which include typhoons, volcanic activities, diversions and emergency landings, and other similar unforeseen and time-sensitive evacuations.

Airline crew members are also permitted to temporarily billet in accommodation establishments under a “bubble” concept supervised by the LGUs.

“For this purpose, the DILG is instructed to coordinate with all LGUs to align their health entry protocols for this limited purpose. The CAAP is likewise instructed to supervise and police the implementation of these activities,” the resolution read.

The IATF also authorized the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to set up a corporate jet flight maintenance and crew layover hub at the Subic Special Economic and Freeport Zone under a strict “bubble” concept.

IATF approves uniform travel protocols for LGUs

Maris Federez   •   February 27, 2021

A security officer (C) with a trained dog inspects passenger luggage at a provincial bus terminal in Quezon City, Philippines, 29 October 2019. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved the uniform travel protocols for all local government units (LGUs).

An advisory released on Saturday (February 27) by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) crafted these uniform travel protocols for land, air and sea.

It is in close coordination with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Municipalities of the Philippines, and the League of Cities of the Philippines.

The uniform protocol provides that “travelers shall no longer be required to undergo COVID-19 testing except if the local government unit (LGU) of destination will make testing as a requirement prior to travel. Testing will be limited to RT-PCR test.”

“Travelers shall no longer undergo quarantine unless they exhibit symptoms upon arrival at the LGU of destination,” the advisory further read.

Minimum public health standards, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and wearing of face masks and face shields across all settings shall continue to be strictly implemented by authorities concerned.

Ports of entry and exit personnel shall strictly implement clinical and exposure assessment as health assessment of passengers shall also be mandatory upon entry in the port/terminal and exit at point of destination.

Meanwhile, the travel authority issued by the Joint Task Force COVID Shield and health certificates shall no longer be required.

However, authorized persons outside of residence (APORS) from national government agencies and their attached agencies must provide their identification card, travel order, and travel itinerary. They must likewise pass symptom-screening at the ports of entry and exit.

The PCOO media release further read that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)’s Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) Travel Management System will now be institutionalized as the one-stop-shop application/ communication for travelers.

“The StaySafe.ph System shall be utilized as the primary contact tracing system. Other existing contact tracing applications, such as Traze App, must be integrated with the StaySafe.ph System,” it added.

Ports and terminals must have sufficient quarantine or isolation facilities, as well as a workable referral system wherein symptomatic travelers shall be immediately transferred to quarantine or isolation facilities to enable the Bureau of Quarantine for airports, or local health officials for LGUs, to take over.

All buses in Metro Manila bound for the provinces, on the other hand, shall be required to use the Integrated Terminal Exchange as the central hub for transportation.

“At the option of the LGUs, they may provide transportation for all travelers who are transiting from one LGU to another in cases of arrivals at air and seaports to their end-point destinations,” the IATF said.

The DILG, the DOST, the Department of Health, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Transportation, and the Philippine National Police, as well as the LGUs, shall jointly ensure that these protocols are smoothly implemented.

IATF OKs use of Sinovac COVID-19 vax for healthcare workers

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has agreed with the recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) to use Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said NITAG experts have concluded that the vaccine will be beneficial and is sufficient to be used for healthcare workers despite its lower efficacy rate of 50.4% for those frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), on Monday, issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Sinovac but did not recommend its use for health workers caring for COVID-19 patients due to its lower efficacy rate based on clinical trials conducted in Brazil.

Vergeire stressed that the FDA’s recommendation on Sinovac was not a contraindication and that this does not prohibit healthcare workers from getting the Sinovac jab.

“Ultimately, the EUA of FDA establishes the safety and efficacy of Sinovac and our experts have ruled that SINOVAC’s 100% efficacy rate in preventing moderate and severe cases is indeed sufficient to meet the goal of reducing deaths — protections which we want to afford first and foremost to our healthcare workers,” she said.

Experts from NITAG also emphasized that the vaccine is safe and that they themselves are prepared to receive a shot.

“In our deliberations what we looked at it is safety to ensure the vaccine is safe that has been borne out by the review of the trials,” Dr. Marissa Alejandira, DOH-TAG member, said.

“As for myself, as a healthcare worker who sees COVID-19 patients, I am willing to take this vaccine,” Dr. Edsel Salvana, also a DOH TAG member, said.

They, however, stressed that medical frontliners will not be forced to take the shot and that they will not lose their priority status if they chose to decline the Sinovac vaccine shot.

The DOH said it is now finalizing details on how to allocate the 600,000 Sinovac vaccine doses expected to arrive on Sunday, February 28. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

IATF wants alternative modes of validation for elderly pension access

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response has ordered pension-issuing agencies and their servicing banks and other financial institutions to adopt alternative modes of verifying claims of senior citizens so they will no longer have to appear in-person to access their pensions, Malacañang announced Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) considered the health and safety of the elderly pensioners amid the pandemic in issuing the policy.

At present, senior citizens make personal appearances or submit documents that require personal appearances before a notary public in order to have continuous access to their pensions.

Roque said relevant government agencies have been mandated to issue corresponding memorandum circulars for its implementation by March 1.

This directive is contained in the IATF Resolution No. 100 approved on Thursday, February 18.

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