PH extends travel restrictions on 10 countries until Sept. 5

Marje Pelayo   •   September 1, 2021   •   405

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte approved on Tuesday (August 31) the extension of travel restrictions on 10 countries as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the travel ban which was supposed to end on August 31, has been extended for one more week until September 5.

These 10 countries are: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Philippines imposed travel restrictions as part of its proactive measures to slow down the rising number of COVID-19 cases and curb the spread of COVID variants.

The national government hopes to increase the country’s existing healthcare capacity which has been overwhelmed by the recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, particularly the Delta variant.

IATF revisits ‘no vaccine, no work’ policy

Maris Federez   •   December 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) announced that it is revisiting Resolutions 148-B and 149 on the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of onsite workers.

Department of Health (DOH) Usec. Charade Mercado-Grande, who is in the DOH-IATF Secretariat, said the resolutions mandating the “no vaccine, no work” policy is under review.

“The matter is already under review and discussion po, Mr. Chair,” she said during the House Committee on Labor and Employment hearing on Tuesday.

The House panel had earlier sent a letter to the IATF, urging the body to suspend the resolution that allows business establishments to implement the ‘no vaccine, no work” policy among onsite employees.

Mercado-Grande confirmed that the resolution is still in effect despite calls from members of the House to have it suspended.

Committee chair Rep. Eric Pineda expressed dismay over the seeming disregard of the IATF to their call.

“Wala man lang sagot sa amin, ni ha ni ho. Di sana tumawag man sila o nagparamdam man lang sila. But the way we feel it, especially my committee members, para kaming napapahiya dito. Para kaming hindi binibigyan ng importansya ng mga amo ninyo,” Pineda said.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Ferdinand Gaite shared the same sentiment.

“Tila hindi binibigyan ng pagpapahalaga itong napakalaki nang implication sa ating mga manggagawa sa kasalukuyan,” he said.

With this, Pineda warned that it will issue a subpoena to the officials of the IATF should the body continue to ignore their panel’s invitation to attend the hearing.

“Kasi we don’t want na umabot sa punto na this committee will now subpoena the members of the IATF just to compel them to attend this hearing,” Pineda said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

IATF updates testing, quarantine protocols; Apayao now under Alert Level 2

Maris Federez   •   December 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has approved testing and quarantine protocols for arriving international passengers in all ports of entry in the Philippines coming from countries/territories/ jurisdictions not classified under the Red List.

This was what was agreed upon in the task force’s meeting on Thursday (December 2).

In a statement released to reporters, acting spokesperson Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the new protocols shall take effect Friday, December 3.

As part of the new protocols, fully vaccinated individuals shall be required to have a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, they shall undergo facility-based quarantine with an RT-PCR test taken on the 5th day, with the date of arrival being the first day.

Regardless of a negative result, they shall be required to undergo home quarantine up to the 14th day from the date of arrival.

On the other hand, individuals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or whose vaccination status cannot be independently validated shall be required a negative RT-PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, they shall undergo facility-based quarantine with an RT-PCR test done on the 7th day, with the date of arrival being the first day.

Like those who are vaccinated, they, too, shall be required to undergo home quarantine up to the 14th day from the date of arrival, regardless of a negative RT-PCR test result.

The statement also said that the IATF has directed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to ensure that airlines board only passengers who comply with the negative RT-PCR test-before-travel requirement.

“The testing and quarantine protocols of minors, on the other hand, shall follow the testing and quarantine protocol of the parent/guardian traveling with them, regardless of the minor’s vaccination status and country of origin,” the directive read.

“For international passengers who have already arrived and are currently undergoing quarantine, they shall continue with the testing and quarantine protocols in place at the time of their arrival,” it added.

The directive further read that Filipinos from Red List countries allowed entry via government-initiated or non-government repatriations and Bayanihan Flights shall only be allowed to deplane via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and/or Clark International Airport.

The DOTr, through their attached agencies, is directed to ensure the compliance of airlines with this directive.

Upon arrival, passengers must comply with the testing and quarantine protocols as prescribed under IATF Resolution No. 149-A (s.2021).

Meanwhile, the IATF also amended the metrics for determining alert level classifications of provinces, highly urbanized cities, and independent component cities.

Amendments include removing the One-Week Growth Rate as a metric for escalation from Alert Level 1 to Alert Level 2, and the escalation of areas under Alert Level 1 to Alert Level 2 if either case classification or total COVID-19 bed utilization increases to moderate risk or higher.

Also, part of the amendment is the escalation of areas under Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 3 if both case classification and total COVID-19 bed utilization are at moderate risk, or if case classification is at high to critical risk.

With the implementation of the revised metrics, Apayao shall be classified under Alert Level 2 from December 3 to 15, Nograles said. —/mbmf

Testing at sequencing ng samples ng international passengers vs Omicron variant, inirerekomenda ng WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Inirerekomenda ng World Health Organization (WHO) ang pagpapaigting sa screening at sequencing ng samples ng lahat ng mga pasaherong papasok sa Pilipinas.

Ayon kay WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, isa ito sa mga mabisang paraan upang agad mapigilan ang pagkalat ng Omicron variant sakaling makapasok na ito sa bansa.

Aniya, dapat muling higpitan ang screening at isailalim sa RT-PCR screening ang mga pasahero, may Omicron variant case man o wala ang pinanggalingan nilang bansa.

“Risk-based approach should not only target countries that have already confirmed the Omicron variant in travellers or in citizens. We need to be aware of the fact that many countries have limited capacity for whole genome sequencing,” ani Abeyasinghe.

“That’s why I am advocating that anyone returning from overseas should be sequenced… So that we can get a headstart on being able to detect on the arrival of the variant in the country,” dagdag pa niya.

Kailangan rin aniyang isailalim sa genome sequencing ang lahat ng samples mula sa inbound travelers na nagpositibo sa COVID-19 upang matiyak na walang makakalusot na Omicron variant sa Pilipinas.

Sang-ayon rin si Abeyasinghe sa pagpapatupad ng travel restrictions sa South Africa at iba pang mga bansang may kaso na nito dahil karapatan ng isang bansa na magpatupad ng precautionary measures mula sa anumang banta.

“WHO has always advocated a risk-based approach. So each country should consider the risk of potential information from countries that are already confirming these variants and take appropriate measures while we’re trying to determine the absolute epidemiological significance of the variant and its response to the preventive entry and protocols that we have in the country at the moment in the world,” ayon sa WHO official.

“We continue to urge countries to take a risk- based approach in assessing the likelihood of information,” dagdag pa niya.

Ang Omicron variant ay unang natuklasan sa South Africa noon lamang nakaraang linggo at ngayo’y napaulat na rin sa iba’t ibang bansa.

Sa mga inisyal na pag-aaral, pinangangambahang mas agresibo at mas nakakahawa ang variant na ito dahil sa nakita ritong mutations na mas marami pa kumpara sa Delta variant.

Ngunit giit ng WHO, sa ngayon ay wala pang malinaw na detalye para sabihing mas mabagsik nga ang Omicron variant at may epekto ito sa transmission, mga gamot na ginagamit sa severe infection at sa bakuna laban sa COVID-19.

Ayon sa ahensiya, mas mainam pa ring panlaban sa virus ang umiiral na health protocols gaya ng tamang pagsusuot ng face mask, physical distancing, at palagiang paghuhugas ng kamay.

Mas maigi ring magpabakuna dahil nagbibigay ito ng proteksyon laban sa COVID-19. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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