Immigration chief confident PH reopening to foreign tourists soon

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2021   •   123

Bureau of Immigration (BI) chief Jaime Morente on Thursday said they are now preparing for the eventual reopening of Philippine borders to foreign tourists amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While no definite date has been decided for when the Philippines will reopen its doors to foreign tourists, Morente expressed confidence that this will happen “very soon.”

“There are reports circulating that the country has already reopened its borders to international leisure travelers,” Morente said in a statement.

“While we are awaiting the official announcement from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), we have already put in place the needed manpower and facilities in preparation for this,” he added.

Earlier, the BI announced that frontline personnel have been banned from filing vacation leaves during the holiday season.

The bureau also stated that 99 new immigration officers have been recently hired for deployment in the BI’s ports and various offices nationwide.

“We have also resumed the use of our e-gates for arriving Filipinos as it would greatly lessen the processing time for our kababayans who will be returning here for Christmas,” said Morente.

He said the IATF-MEID is still extensively discussing and deliberating on proposals to reopen the Philippines to alien visitors, ironing out many details before its implementation.

“Most probably, those coming from green list countries will be the first ones to be allowed entry,” said Morente.

According to BI Port Operations Division Chief Atty. Carlos Capulong, there are 44 countries that are under the green list, while two— the Faroe Islands and the Netherlands —remain on the red list.

Morente clarified that the country’s travel restrictions are still on status quo as they wait for the IATF-MEID to make the formal announcement.

DOH: Philippines now classified at minimal risk for COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   December 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines ­– The whole of the Philippines is now classified at minimal risk for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said most of the regions in the country have showed decreased average daily attack rate compared with previous weeks.

“Nationally, we remain at minimal risk case classification with a negative two-week growth rate at negative 57% and a low risk average daily attack rate at point 67 cases for every 100,000 individuals,” Vergeire said in a press briefing.

“The National health systems capacity is at low risk. All regions showed decrease in average daily attack rates compared to the previous 3-4 weeks and remained at minimal to low risk case classification,” she added.

Vergeire noted that from the more than 900 average daily cases from November 22 to 29, it declined to an average of 544 per day nationwide.

She said this is lower than the figure recorded in August 2020 and April 2021 when the Philippines reached the peak of cases.

The National Capital Region also remains at low-risk classification with 112 average daily cases recorded from November 29 to December 5.

Death cases also decreased to three during the period of December 1 to 5.

Vergeire said infection rates in most of the regions have been steadily declining compared with previous weeks.

But she urged the public not to be complacent especially during this time when some people gather to celebrate the holiday season.

Vergeire said the public should continue adhering to health protocols as the threat of COVID-19 remains. (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

PH gov’t tracing 253 passengers from Africa amid looming threat of Omicron

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is tracing and monitoring more than 200 travelers who arrived in the country from African nations in the last two weeks amid the threat of new COVID-19 variant called Omicron, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have traced a total of 253 passengers from South Africa who arrived in the Philippines from November 15 to 29.

“BOQ has started to locate these passengers,” Vergeire said in a virtual press forum.

Of the 253 passengers, 249 were returning overseas Filipinos and four were foreigners. Authorities have traced 71 of these individuals.

The number includes three foreigners still in quarantine in Western Visayas after yielding negative test results.

Vergeire said three of these passengers initially tested positive for COVID-19. One passenger came from South Africa, another from Burkina Faso, and the other from Egypt.

She said samples of these travelers may undergo genome sequencing for variant identification.

“We are still processing the batch that we are going to subject to whole genome sequencing for this week. Results might be tonight or maybe tomorrow,” she said.

“Meron pong dumating na 253 from South Africa noong Nov. 15 to 29, may tatlo galing Burkina Faso; and mayroon 541 galing Egypt. Each of these countries nagkaroon ng isang traveler who tested positive for COVID-19,” she added.

The Philippine government banned the entry of travelers – except for Filipino repatriates – from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy until December 15 as a precautionary measure against the Omicron variant.

The DOH said the heavily mutated variant and potentially more infectious than other coronavirus variants have now been detected in 35 countries.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa.

It has been designated as a variant of concern but the World Health Organization said further studies are needed to better understand the variant’s effect on vaccines, treatment, and the virus’ transmissibility.

Over 90 million COVID-19 vaccine jabs administered in PH – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has administered over 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since the government rolled out the immunization drive in March, Malacañang said Friday.

Citing the December 2 data from the National COVID-19 Vaccination dashboard, acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles said a total of 90,259,621 doses have been administered nationwide.

Of said figure, 48.42 percent or 37.3 million individuals have been fully vaccinated, he added.

The total included some 52.4 million first doses and 432,301 booster doses.

The government aims to vaccinate 54 million by the end of 2021 and up to 70 million by March 2022 to attain population protection against COVID-19.

In a bid to scale up the country’s vaccination rate, the government launched a three-day mass vaccination campaign, which initially aimed to vaccinate 9 million.

The campaign covered at least 8 million individuals in three days. The Department of Health earlier said this figure is expected to go up as reports continue to come in.

Meanwhile, the government also announced that the expanded rollout of the administration of booster shots for all fully vaccinated individuals aged 18 and above has started on Friday.

This program includes the Phase 2 rollout of the booster and additional doses for priority group A3 (persons with comorbidities), Nograles said.

Tandaan natin na importanteng magpabakuna sa gitna ng banta ng Omicron variant,” he said.

“Sa milyun-milyong nabakunahan na mga Pilipino, 99%+++ ay walang naramdaman na adverse reaction, o kung mayroon man, mild lamang po ito. Wala pong namatay na direktang may kaugnayan sa COVID-19 vaccine jab,” he added.

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