A TOP official of the Department of Health (DOH) has acknowledged that there are some good practices in Cebu Province that are worth replicating in the national level.
In a virtual forum on Thursday, June 3, 2021, DOH Epidemiology Director Alethea de Guzman said among these good practices are the “strong
LGU (local government unit) coordination and strong monitoring by the LGU” of the Covid-19 situation in Cebu.
“These are most important. We know that the LGUs are in the front line (of the battle against the Covid-19) and we need them to have the necessary resources, (and) the leadership to carry out our protocols,” she said.
She declined to comment further, saying it would be DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III who will issue a statement.
DOH has yet to transmit its recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte.
She said, however, that DOH experts have reviewed the quarantine and testing protocols in Cebu for returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Duterte had given the DOH until Thursday to “critique” Cebu’s arrival protocols.
As this developed, Senate President Vicente Sotto III called on the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious
Diseases to consider a shorter quarantine period for fully vaccinated travelers entering the Philippines as long as health standards are followed.
“Why do fully vaccinated people have to still do the two-week quarantine when traveling to the Philippines? It doesn’t make sense! (It) defeats the purpose of vaccinating so we can open the economy,” Sotto said in a Viber message to reporters.
Sotto said vaccinated investors, foreigners and ROFs are discouraged from traveling to the Philippines because of this quarantine protocol.
The President directed DOH to critique Cebu’s arrival protocols even as he stressed during a meeting with Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and other officials from Cebu on May 31 that LGUs must abide by the national policy.
Resolution No. 114 of IATF requires all inbound international passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to undergo facility-based quarantine for 10 days and an additional four days under home quarantine, if negative for the virus that causes Covid-19.
Each traveler will be swabbed on the seventh day. Regardless of the result, the traveler must complete 10 days in a quarantine facility.
De Guzman said DOH experts have determined that 10 days would be enough to observe and test whether a traveler is infected.
She said they are confident that when a traveler is discharged from facility-based quarantine after 10 days, there is very minimal risk for him to develop Covid-19.
In Cebu, however, Garcia has issued Executive Order 17 requiring arriving ROFs and OFWs to be tested upon arrival and to check into a quarantine hotel while waiting for the test result, which is normally released in a matter of hours or within three days at most.
If negative for Sars-CoV-2, the ROF or OFW will be allowed to go home while their respective LGUs have been ordered to not impose any additional requirements.
Garcia later verbally amended this directive to require the ROF or OFW with a negative test result to go into home quarantine and opt to be swabbed on the seventh day from arrival per the IATF policy. EO 17 was not amended.
In what was seen as a rebuke of Cebu’s arrival protocols, Malacañang rerouted to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport all international flights bound for Mactan-Cebu International Airport from May 29 to June 5, 2021.
Twelve flights were affected and their passengers subjected to IATF’s quarantine and testing protocols.
The Department of Tourism earlier proposed the establishment of green lanes to expedite the arrival process for fully vaccinated individuals and reduce the quarantine period to seven days.
The Bureau of Immigration supported this proposal, saying this will resuscitate the tourism industry. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo / SunStar Philippines)