IATF allows carriers to ditch isolation area in aircraft

Jam Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2020 11:48 AM | Updated as of Nov 20 2020 02:45 PM

NAIA Terminal 1 personnel perform routine disinfection as a precaution against COVID-19 on Oct. 28, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The inter-agency task force leading the country's pandemic response has allowed carriers to ditch the isolation areas for ill passengers on their aircraft, Malacañang said Friday, as authorities sought to boost the pandemic-battered economy. 

The removal of the required isolation area in the aircraft cabin will apply to domestic flights, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"The IATF decision is based on the grounds that guidelines were issued based on available information at the time, and that more information is now available on how COVID-19 is transmitted in closed settings," he said in a statement. 

Roque said airlines now employ "improved health protocols from boarding to landing" like the use of High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. Domestic flights generally do not exceed 1.5 hours, he added.
 
The IATF also instructed local governments "to relax entry protocols such as test-upon-arrival requirement" on airline crew layovers or positioning due to emergency situations like typhoons, volcanic activities, diversions and emergency landings, Roque said. 

Airline crew members are also permitted to temporarily billet in accommodation establishments under a “bubble” concept supervised by local authorities, said Roque. 

The task force 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, he added.

The IATF also relaxed age restrictions on going out for those below 15 years old and those who are over 65 years old under Modified General Community Quarantine Areas (MGCQ), who are traveling for tourism purposes, said Roque. 

The task force earlier junked its required negative coronavirus test result for travelers headed abroad, and allowed foreign investors to enter the country from Nov. 1.

Malacañang last week said the worst was "over" after the Philippine economy shrank for the third straight quarter (July-September) with the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The Philippines has reported 413,430 coronavirus infections, of which 30,493 were active as of Thursday.