Philippines suspends shorter quarantine for fully vaccinated COVID-19 close contacts

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2021 11:19 AM | Updated as of Aug 11 2021 12:14 PM

Health workers attend to returning Manila residents at the San Andres Quarantine Facility in Manila on Jan. 4, 2021. Residents of the city who spent the holidays outside Metro Manila are required by the local government to undergo RT-PCR tests before returning to their respective homes. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Health workers attend to returning Manila residents at the San Andres Quarantine Facility in Manila on Jan. 4, 2021. Residents of the city who spent the holidays outside Metro Manila are required by the local government to undergo RT-PCR tests before returning to their respective homes. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— The inter-agency task force (IATF) leading the Philippines' pandemic response said on Wednesday it suspended the shortened quarantine period for fully vaccinated individuals who came in close contact with probable and confirmed COVID-19 patients. 

Earlier protocol allowed fully vaccinated individuals to undergo a 7-day quarantine period, instead of 14 days, provided they remain asymptomatic. 
 
"The decision to temporarily suspend said protocol is part of the continued implementation of proactive measures to slow down the surge in COVID-19 cases and to stop the further spread of the variants," said IATF and Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque. 
 
With this suspension, all close contacts of probable and confirmed COVID-19 patients shall be placed under a 14-day quarantine period, he said in a statement.

Those who remain asymptomatic for at least 14 days from the date of exposure can discontinue their quarantine. In the event that they develop symptoms or test positive for coronavirus, they shall be isolated and shall be admitted and treated in an appropriate facility, added the official. 

The health department defines close contacts as those with exposure during the 2 days before and the 14 days after the onset of symptoms of the probable or confirmed case through the following, said Roque:

  • Face-to-face contact within 1 meter and for at least 15 minutes
  • Direct physical contact
  • Direct care for a patient without using personal protective equipment
  • Other situations as indicated by local risk assessments 

The Philippines is battling one of Asia's worst coronavirus cases, with some 1.6 million infections, including at least 450 cases of the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant. 

"Base sa mga ebidensya ngayon, 'yong viral load ng isang bakunado ay same lang ng unvaccinated kapag Delta ang nakapanghawa sa kaniya," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. 

(Based on evidence, the viral load of a vaccinated person is just the same if he or she was infected with the Delta variant.)

"We cannot differentiate at this point kung ano ang (which one is) Delta at hindi Delta," she sad in a press briefing. 

Even with the other variants, not all patients experience loss of taste and smell, Vergeire noted.

"Iba-iba po ang nangyayari sa katawan," she said. "That shows you how varied itong mga sintomas sa COVID-19." 

"We should all assume na kung ano man ang nagtra-transmit sa atin ngayon, ito ay Delta variant," added the official. 

(The effects on the body vary. That shows you how varied the symptoms of COVID-19 are. We should all assume that whatever is transmitted to us, this the Delta variant.)

Some 11.6 million people in the Philippines are now fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. Government aims to immunize at least 58 million people this year to achieve herd population protection and safely reopen the economy. 

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