MANILA (UPDATE) — Three countries, including the Philippines, were added by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to its "high" risk list for travel due to COVID-19.
Manila joined Nepal and Russia in the Level 3 group, described as having "High Level of COVID-19," according to CDC's travel health notice uploaded Tuesday, local time.
"Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before traveling to the Philippines," the US top health agency said.
"If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, avoid travel to the Philippines."
The Level 3 category applies to countries with over 100 COVID-19 new cases over the past 28 days per 100,000 population.
In its advisory, the CDC warned travelers that those even "up to date" with coronavirus jabs, they may still be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19.
Anyone 2 years or older should properly wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces, it said.
"If you have a weakened immune system or are at increased risk for severe disease, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, talk with your clinician about your risk, and consider delaying travel to the Philippines," the CDC said.
Level 4, previously the highest risk category, is now "reserved for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, and healthcare infrastructure collapse," the CDC said.
The agency updated its COVID-19 Travel Health Notice system in April. It reviews case data reported to the World Health Organization to determine a destination’s COVID-19 THN level.
In response to the country's inclusion to the "high" risk list, the Department of Health said the CDC used different metrics.
"Yun pong indicators or ‘yung metrics na ginagamit ng CDC for them to classify a country as high risk or low risk or moderate risk is different from the measures or metrics we use in our country," DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.
“Sa CDC ang ginagamit po nila 'yung incidence rate triangulated with the testing data. Dito po sa ating bansa we know na ito pong number of cases ay hindi po natin binibigyan ng equal weight with our healthcare utilization,” she added.
Vergeire said the government now places importance on the country's healthcare system.
"Sa Pilipinas, ang ating severe and critical infections remain to be at that low number less than 1,000 and atin pong mga naa-admit manageable at nape-preserve pa rin natin ang ating health-care system capacity," she said.
In the past week, the Philippines logged 28,008 new COVID-19 cases, according to the Department of Health.
From Aug. 1 to 7, the country logged an average of 4,001 infections per day, up 3 percent compared to the previous week.
To date, there are 72.1 million Filipinos fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of the tally, more than 17 million have received their additional jab while 1.8 million have gotten their second booster shots.