Gov't imposes 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving in PH; COVID testing on 7th day

The government has revised its testing and quarantine protocols for all incoming travelers in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

OWWA personnel inspect travel documents of passengers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 on May 6, 2021 (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has required passengers regardless of vaccination status to undergo quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the country. These passengers must also get tested for coronavirus on the seventh day from arrival date.

The revised protocols were contained in the latest IATF Resolution No. 114, issued on May 6. The decision was announced by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on state television Friday, May 7.

"All arriving travelers shall undergo fourteen (14) day quarantine upon arrival. The first ten days of which shall be observed in a quarantine facility, with the remainder to be completed under home quarantine in their respective local government units of destination," the IATF resolution read.

"Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing shall be conducted on the seventh day with Day 1 being the day of arrival. Notwithstanding a negative test result, the arriving traveler shall complete the facility-based quarantine period of ten days," it added.

The Bureau of Quarantine has been directed ensure strict symptom monitoring while in the facility quarantine for 10 days.

Prior to the new protocols, passengers arriving in the Philippines are required to take swab tests on the sixth day from arrival date at a quarantine facility or hotel accredited by the government. They were required to stay at the quarantine facility for at least six nights.

In changing the testing and quarantine rules for passengers, the IATF noted that health authorities have received information on the existence of B.1.617 variant first detected in India "which has not been detected in the Philippines but has been seen in 26 other countries."

"The continued implementation of proactive measures and restrictions must be put in place to slow down the surge in COVID-19 cases, stop further spread of variants, buy time for the health system to cope, and to protect more lives," it said.

In the same resolution, the IATF tasked the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Bureau of Quarantine, and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to issue advisories for on the new testing and quarantine protocols.

The Department of Tourism has been assigned to lead the establishment of a “One Hotel Command” together with other agencies it may deem fit, to be able to immediately and efficiently address concerns of those undergoing facility-based quarantine.

For the security of quarantine facilities, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), through the Philippine National Police, have been asked to augment the Philippine Coast Guard in this regard.

The health department has also been directed to coordinate with OWWA, DOT, quarantine bureau, and the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health to enhance the current symptom tracking mechanisms and provide additional personnel to process and act on symptom tracking information.

The IATF also asked the transportation department determine that swabbing will be done at exactly the seventh day and results to be delivered on the ninth day. "Day of release from the quarantine facility shall be standardized on the 10th day," the resolution read.

The IATF also said swabbers must continue the practice of double swabbing on the seventh day in case necessary for whole genome sequencing.