Phl expands coverage of travel restrictions to 7 more countries due to Omicron variant threat

Maris Federez   •   November 29, 2021   •   472

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ travel restrictions to control the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant had been expanded to include seven more countries.

In a statement released Sunday (November 28), Cabinet Secretary and acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) added Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy to the red list.

Already on the red list are South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique.

“Inbound international travel of all persons, regardless of vaccination status, coming from or who have been to red list countries/jurisdictions/territories within the last 14 days prior to arrival to any port of the Philippines shall not be allowed,” Nograles said.

“Only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for Red List countries, jurisdictions, or territories,” he added.

The red list or areas considered as “high-risk” for COVID-19 will be updated after December 15.

Passengers who are already in transit and all those who have been to the red list countries/territories/jurisdictions within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines and who arrive before 12:01 a.m. of November 30 are exempted from this restriction.

They will, however, undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days with testing on the seventh day.

Nograles further said that passengers merely transiting through the red countries, will not be deemed as having come from or having been to the said country if they stayed at the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry by immigration authorities.

However, they will still be required to comply with existing testing and quarantine protocols. —/mbmf

Galvez: Nearly 7 million Filipino minors vaccinated vs COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly 7 million minors in the Philippines have been inoculated against COVID-19 in the ongoing vaccination campaign, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Galvez said 6.88 million or 54 percent of children aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus disease.

“I am happy to report na maganda po ang ating ongoing vaccination for minors at napakataas po ng antas ng public acceptance. Lalo na po noong National Vaccination Day nagdo-dominate po ang mga minors na talagang pumunta po sa mga vaccination site,” he told the president.

“Sa ngayon po ay may 8.49 million or 67 percent na po ang naka-receive ng first dose and 6.88 million or 54 percent na po ang fully vaccinated sa ating aged 12 to 17 years old,” he added.

With the current vaccination output, Galvez expressed optimism that the immunization campaign for the said age group will be completed by March.

“Sa assessment po namin na kung magtuloy-tuloy ang magandang output natin at kaya po nating matapos ang pagbabakuna ng kabataan edad 12 hanggang 17 anyos by end of March at makapagsimula po tayo ng boosters by April pagka po napayagan po tayo ng mga experts,” he said.

Galvez, who is also chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19, said the government will continue to pursue the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 as they expect more supply of vaccines formulated by Pfizer-BioNTech for this age bracket to arrive in the country in the coming weeks.

He also disclosed that Chinese drug firm Sinovac has applied for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine shots for kids aged 3 to 17 in the country. He said this brand could be used as a source of alternative supply once approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.

Data presented by Galvez showed that at least 55.1 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while more than 4.7 million Filipinos have taken their booster shots.

DepEd eyes expansion of in-person classes by February

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) has recommended the “progressive expansion” of face-to-face classes in areas under COVID-19 Alert Levels 1 and 2 starting next month.

During a pre-taped meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte aired on Monday night, Education Secretary Leonor Briones explained that the expansion of the pilot physical classes will be progressive, which means that only select schools in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 will be allowed to resume classes.

“Hindi ‘yung lahat-lahat sabay-sabay. Kung ang isang lugar ay Alert Level 1 and 2, selective, puwedeng mag-expand ng face-to-face,” Briones said.

The DepEd chief said the expansion of face-to-face classes will start in February, with the concurrence of the local government units (LGU) and parents’ consent.

“Iyong framework ng shared responsibility, patuloy. Iyong pag-concur ng LGUs, alam na alam namin ito, conscious kami at saka parents’ consent, requirement pa rin, Mr. President. Hindi kami mag-e-expand ng basta-basta na hindi kami mangangatok sa local governments at saka hindi namin makuha iyong written consent ng mga parents,” Briones said in her report to the president.

“Iyon ang aming proposal, Mr. President. February ang pag-e-expand pero maingat pa rin, taking into consideration the advice of the Department of Health, the LGUs, as well as now the Department of Justice,” she added.

Briones reiterated that only fully vaccinated teachers and non-teaching personnel will be allowed to join the face-to-face classes. Participation of vaccinated students will also be preferred.

“Ang sabi namin, only vaccinated teachers and non-teaching personnel na vaccinated will participate kung tayo ay mag-implement ng faceto-face. At saka ‘yung participation ng vaccinated students, kasi in-announce na ni (vaccine czar) Secretary (Carlito) Galvez na by March, by April, mag-umpisa na tayo sa mga bata, iyon preferred natin ‘yun. So iyon ang aming proposal, Mr. President,” she said.

Briones said 278 schools with about 15,000 students participated in the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes last year.

Around 28 schools from Metro Manila joined the program last December but its resumption was suspended earlier this January due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Other regions with high coronavirus infections also suspended limited in-person classes but classes in areas under COVID-19 Alert Level 2 have continued.

The DepEd earlier allowed schools and local education offices to suspend classes for up to two weeks over rising COVID-19 cases.

Labor dept asks employers to provide workers with paid isolation, quarantine leave benefits

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday urged employers in the private sector to provide paid leave benefits to workers who have to undergo isolation or quarantine period due to COVID-19.

In a labor advisory, DOLE said this is to “ensure safe and humane working conditions” amid the rising cases of coronavirus in the country.

The labor department said employers in the private sector are encouraged to adopt and implement appropriate paid isolation and quarantine leave program, on top of the existing leave benefits under the company policy. Leave benefits under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Labor Code of the Philippines, and special laws should be separately applied.

“The paid isolation and quarantine leaves shall be without prejudice to other benefits provided by the Social Security System and the Employees Compensation Commission,” it added.

DOLE said its advisory applies to all establishments, employers, and their employees in the private sector.

Under the updated guidelines from the Department of Health, fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms need to isolate for seven days while those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated need to complete the isolation period for 10 days.

The isolation period for moderate cases is 10 days while those with severe and critical symptoms, and immunocompromised would have to isolate for 21 days.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts has been shortened to five days.

Isolation is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine is for those who have been exposed and can possibly develop an infection.

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