PH expands ‘red list’, bans travelers from 7 more countries due to Omicron

Robie de Guzman   •   November 28, 2021   •   262

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has added seven more countries to its Red List in a bid to control the possible entry of a new, heavily mutated COVID-19 variant called Omicron, Malacañang said.

In a statement, the Palace announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has placed Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy under the Red List effective November 28 until December 15.

This is in addition to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique that were earlier placed in the Red List due to the threat of Omicron, which was first detected in the area.

This means that travelers, regardless of vaccination status, who are coming from or who have been to the Red List areas within the last 14 days prior to their arrival will not be allowed to enter the Philippines.

The IATF said that only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry. However, they will be subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for Red List territories.

The Philippine government said that passengers already in transit and all those who have been to the said Red List areas within 14 days before their arrival to the Philippines, who arrive before 12:01 a.m. of November 30, 2021, shall not be subject to this restriction from entry.

“They shall nevertheless be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days with testing on the 7th day, with day 1 being the date of arrival, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR result,” the Palace said.

Passengers who have already arrived prior to November 28, and are currently undergoing quarantine pursuant to the classifications of their country of origin, shall complete their respective testing and quarantine protocols.

Passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, merely transiting through the Red List areas, will not be deemed as having come from these areas if they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry into such country by its immigration authorities.

“Upon their arrival in the Philippines, passengers covered by the immediately preceding paragraph shall comply with existing testing and quarantine protocols,” the Palace said.

The IATF likewise approved the temporary suspension of testing and quarantine protocols for countries/jurisdictions/territories classified as “Green” effective immediately until December 15, 2021.

Passengers from Green List areas who arrived in the Philippines prior to November 28 may still follow quarantine protocols assigned to their country of origin upon the date of their arrival, it added.

“Except for countries classified as ‘Red,’ the testing and quarantine protocols for all inbound international travellers in all ports of entry shall comply with the testing and quarantine protocols for ‘Yellow’ list countries,” the Palace said.

The Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with the local government units (LGUs) have been directed to identify and locate passengers who arrived within 14 days prior to November 29, 2021, from countries classified as Red, and require them to complete quarantine under a home quarantine set-up for 14 days from date of arrival and undergo RT-PCR if symptoms develop.

The IATF also approved the temporary suspension of IATF Resolution No. 150-A providing for the entry of fully vaccinated nationals of non-visa required countries.

“With Omicron designated as a Variant of Concern, the IATF likewise approved the recommendations to strengthen local COVID-19 response,” the Palace said.

“These include strongly enjoining the local government units to heighten their alert for increasing and clustering of cases and emphasizing the need for active case finding; to immediately conduct contact tracing and isolation of cases detected from case surveillance among the community, including domestic and international travelers; and to use RT-PCR testing in order to allow for whole-genome sequencing of collected samples,” it added.

The task force also directed the Department of Health to ensure health system capacity is prepared to address increase of COVID-19 cases.

It also directed the Sub-Technical Working Group on Data Analytics to prepare models to show potential impact of the Omicron variant to prevailing protocols and approvals of the IATF.

PH gov’t to tap drug stores as COVID-19 vaccine booster sites

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is looking to tap drug stores to serve as COVID-19 vaccine booster sites in a bid to ramp up the administration of booster jabs in the country.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s meeting with some of his officials on Monday, Presidential Adviser for COVID-19 response Vince Dizon said the government will seek the help of pharmacies in the country following reports that some vaccination staff have also contracted the virus.

Dizon said the program, which would be dubbed “Resbakuna sa mga botika,” will be launched this week in the first seven pharmacies in Metro Manila.

The pilot run is set for January 20 to 21 in sites including Mercury Drug, Watsons, Rose Pharmacy, Southstar Drug, and the Generics Pharmacy, as well as Healthway and QualiMed.

After the weeklong run, it would then be expanded to other drugstores across the country, he added.

“We will start with 7 pharmacies in Metro Manila which we will launch on Thursday, January 20 and on Friday, January 21,” Dizon said.

“Mabilis po ito Mr. President, pagka-launch po natin, magpi-pilot po sila ng isang linggo, mag-eexpand na po tayo nang mabilis sa iba’t iba pang cities all over the country- Luzon, Visayas, at Mindanao- at sa iba’t ibang mga botika,” he added.

The program aims to assist local government units and the Department of Health with additional personnel for vaccination. It will also help decentralize the inoculation by having smaller but widely spread vaccination sites in the form of drugstores.

 

Philippines posts 28,471 new COVID-19 cases

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Tuesday logged 28,471 more COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

This is the first time in a week that the number of new COVID-19 infections fell below 30,000.

In its data, the DOH said that 27,735 of the newly reported cases occurred within the recent 14 days. Most infections were reported in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon.

The latest figure pushed the country’s number of active cases to 284,458 – 8,930 of which are asymptomatic, 270,784 are mild, 2,957 are moderate, 1,484 are severe, and 303 are in critical condition.

The positivity rate was at 43.4 percent, based on samples of 51,738 individuals on January 16.

Five laboratories failed to submit their data on time. These facilities contribute on average 1.7 percent of samples tested and 2.1 percent of positive cases.

Recoveries increased by 34,892, resulting in 2,933,338 total recuperations.

COVID-related deaths rose to 52,962 with 34 new fatalities.

The utilization rate of intensive care unit beds nationwide was at 49 percent, and 53 percent in Metro Manila; isolation beds in the capital region at 48 percent, and 49 percent across the country.

In Metro Manila, 29 percent of ventilators are in use, and  22 percent nationwide.

 

PH gov’t to ramp up administration of COVID vaccine booster jabs to 500K a day – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government will increase the number of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots being administered in the country to 500,000 daily, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting with officials on Monday, Galvez said more than 4.7 million Filipinos have taken their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. The daily average is 267,900 shots.

“Ito po sa ating analysis ay mababa dahil halos sabay po natin inilunsad ang pagbabakuna ng mga bata, ang mga bata po ngayon ay mahigit na 8 million,” he said.

“Ang average po natin naitala ay mahigit na 260,000 po lamang. Kinakailangan po na maiangat sa doblado or 500,000 doses kada araw,” he added.

Galvez said the country needs to ramp up its booster output in order to achieve its target of boosting more than 70 million Filipinos against COVID-19.

To increase the output, the official said concerned agencies have drafted strategies including the expansion of vaccination sites for boosters using pharmacies and private clinics.

“Concentrate po tayo sa NCR+ 10 at sa mga area na may more than 70 percent fully vaccinated para mapanatili na mataas at tuloy-tuloy na proteksiyon,” Galvez said.

“I-expand po natin ang vaccination sites for boostering using big pharmacies and private sector clinics for the A4 population… At mag-dedicate po tayo ng mega vaccination site like Nayong Pilipino at mga malls for boosters administration,” he added.

The Philippine government is eyeing to fully vaccinate up to 77 million Filipinos in the first quarter of this year and 90 million Filipinos by the second quarter.

To date, more than 55 million individuals have been fully vaccinated since the Philippines rolled out its immunization campaign in March 2020.

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