MANILA – The Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 response announced on Friday revised protocols for the coronavirus testing and quarantine of travelers entering the Philippines.
The IATF, in a meeting on Thursday, ordered that regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, inbound travelers should stay for 10 days at a quarantine facility, and then complete a 4-day home quarantine in their destination, said the task force's spokesman Harry Roque.
"All arriving travelers shall likewise undergo a Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing on the 7th day, and notwithstanding a negative test result, they shall complete the 10-day facility-based quarantine period, under the strict symptom monitoring of the Bureau of Quarantine," he said in a statement.
The IATF, he said, ordered the bureau, the tourism department to lead a "One Hotel Command" to "immediately and efficiently address concerns of those undergoing facility-based quarantine."
"The DOTr shall ascertain that swabbing will be done at exactly the 7th day and results delivered on the 9th day. Day of release from the quarantine facility shall be standardized on the 10th day," added Roque.
He said samples should also be sent to the Philippine Genome Center to check for more transmissible COVID-19 variants.
The Philippines has suspended until May 14 the entry of travelers from India to keep out a COVID-19 variant detected there. India is struggling to contain a wave of coronavirus infections that have swamped hospitals.
Beginning Friday, the Philippines also widened the curb to travelers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka– which surround India.
Inbound travelers were previously required to complete a 14-day facility-based quarantine, and take a coronavirus test 5 or 6 days after their arrival, said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
The testing policy was adjusted after experts found that the "viral load is still high until the 7th or 8th day, that’s why we are revising again our protocol," she said in an earlier interview.
"This is a process para ma-ensure natin na even though nakakapasok pa rin ang ibang travelers especially Filipinos sa ating bansa, nasisiguro natin na naa-isolate natin sila nang maayos to break the chain of transmission," she told reporters in an online press conference.
(This is a process to ensure that even though travelers especially Filipinos arrive in our country, we can still isolate them properly to break the chain of transmission.)
The Philippines does not require COVID-19 testing for its citizens who go out of the country, Vergeire said.
"It depends on the agency, on the country of destination," she said.
As of May 3, the Philippines has tested 155 travelers who arrived in the country in April, according to data from the DOH.
Of these passengers, 4 Filipinos and 1 Indian national tested positive for COVID-19, Vergeire said.
The 5 COVID-19 patients came from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Singapore, she said.
"We are still trying to verify and complete the details of these 155 passengers," she said.