AFTER releasing a new Red list of countries, the government’s COVID-19 task force expanded this further in response to the new COVID-19 variant of concern, now called “Omicron.”
According to Cabinet Secretary and Acting Spokesperson Karlo Nograles, the IATF released new countries that belong to the “Red” List, which now include Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy.
The expanded list will take effect starting today, November 28, 2021.
The IATF earlier placed South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique under the Red List as part of precautionary measures to prevent the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which reportedly originated from South Africa, from entering the country.
Nograles said this means “inbound international travel of all persons, regardless of vaccination status, coming from or who have been to Red List countries/jurisdictions/territories within the last 14 days prior to arrival to any port of the Philippines shall not be allowed.”
He said only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for Red List countries/jurisdictions/territories.
Meanwhile, passengers already in transit and all those who have been to the abovementioned Red List countries/territories/jurisdictions within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, who arrive before 12:01 am of November 30, 2021, shall not be subject to this restriction from entry. “However, they shall be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days with testing on the 7th day, with day 1 being the date of arrival, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR result,” Nograles said.
On the other hand, passengers who have already arrived prior to November 28, 2021 and are currently undergoing quarantine pursuant to the classifications of their country of origin, as the case may be, shall complete their respective testing and quarantine protocols.
In the case of passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, merely transiting through the abovementioned countries, will not be deemed as having come from or having been to said country if they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry into such country by its immigration authorities.
Upon their arrival in the Philippines, passengers covered by the immediately preceding paragraph shall comply with existing testing and quarantine protocols.
The IATF likewise approved the temporary suspension of testing and quarantine protocols for countries/jurisdictions/territories classified as “Green” effective immediately until December 15, 2021. Except for countries classified as “Red,” the testing and quarantine protocols for all inbound international travelers in all ports of entry shall comply with the testing and quarantine protocols for “Yellow” list countries.
On the other hand, Nograles pointed out that arriving passengers from Green List countries/territories/jurisdictions who arrived prior to November 28, 2021 may still follow quarantine protocols assigned to their country of origin upon the date of their arrival.
Also approved in today’s meeting is the temporary suspension of IATF Resolution No. 150-A (s.2021) providing for the entry of fully vaccinated nationals of non-visa required countries under Executive Order No. 408 (s.1960), as amended, from Green List countries/jurisdictions/territories.
With Omicron designated as a Variant of Concern, the IATF likewise approved the recommendations to strengthen local COVID-19 response, according to Nograles.
These include strongly enjoining the local government units (LGUs) to heighten their alert for increasing and clustering of cases and emphasizing the need for active case finding; to immediately conduct contact tracing and isolation of cases detected from case surveillance among the community, including domestic and international travelers; and to use RT-PCR testing in order to allow for whole-genome sequencing of collected samples.
The Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units are likewise directed to ensure targeted selection of samples for sequencing and address declining submissions of laboratories and regions from domestic and international travelers.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with the LGUs have been directed to identify and locate passengers who arrived within 14 days prior to November 29, 2021, from countries classified as Red, and require them to complete quarantine under a home quarantine set-up for 14 days from date of arrival and undergo RT-PCR if symptoms develop.
The LGUs and the DILG are further directed to ensure strict implementation and adherence to the Prevent – Detect – Isolate – Test – Reintegrate strategy and adherence and compliance to minimum public health standards (MPHS) with the directive given to the Philippine National Police to enforce MPHS compliance.
In addition, the Department of Health is directed to ensure health system capacity is prepared to address increase of COVID-19 cases, if any; while the Sub-Technical Working Group on Data Analytics is directed to begin preparing models to show potential impact of the Omicron variant to prevailing protocols and approvals of the IATF.