DOH chief questions removal of quarantine period for fully vaccinated travelers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 14 2021 09:28 AM | Updated as of Oct 14 2021 02:59 PM

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MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Thursday he was not consulted when officials made the decision to allow the entry of fully vaccinated travelers from "green countries" without facility quarantine.

Duque said other officials such as vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, vice-chairperson of National Task Force against COVID-19, were also absent.

"I wasn’t part of that IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force against Emerging Infectious Diseases) that deliberated on this yesterday. I was in another budget hearing with the Senate," he told ANC's Headstart.

"It's there so we just have to monitor these border controls and very closely monitor this. This will also be a subject of IATF discussions this afternoon once the members who weren't there yesterday...We’ll see how this is gonna turn out because we have some issues to raise."

Duque said he had always supported five days quarantine followed by a confirmatory test.

"If I recall, even the President said to just reduce the quarantine period but not do away with quarantine period," he said.

"(Other) countries can afford to do it because their national vaccine coverage is 30 percent. And not all travelers pass through NCR (National Capital Region). Some pass are going to Davao, Cebu, other airports, so that's a cause for concern."

PALACE SAYS GREEN LIST TO BE REVISED

Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque said the list of green countries whose travelers can skip quarantine will be revised on Oct. 16. 

He also noted that while China was on the list, it also included less popular destinations like Nauru, Eritrea, Tajikistan, and Tonga, among others. 

Roque said he was absent from the meeting that decided on ditching the quarantine requirement. It was attended by Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, Epidemiology Bureau chief Alethea De Guzman, and infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvaña. 

Roque said he and other officials were in Davao because they initially thought they would meet President Rodrigo Duterte for a second time this week. 

"Ito po ay base naman sa siyensya," he said of the new protocol. 

(This is based on science anyway.)

Duque said it was "very important" for the country to ramp up its vaccine coverage as its jab rate hasn't moved up following the arrival of more supplies.

The country needs to administer 70,000 to 1 million jabs per day to achieve population protection by yearend or inoculate at least 50 percent of its target population, he added.

Government has so far fully vaccinated 23.54 Filipinos, while 26.94 have received their first dose.