IATF eases quarantine measures, grants exemptions

THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has agreed to lift the 72-hour window given to departing foreign nationals, overseas Filipino workers and balikbayans.

The task force has also agreed to exempt the country’s financial trading platforms from the quarantine measures and allow these to reopen after Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Finance, and Securities and Exchange Commission officials assured that necessary safeguards to ensure the safety of their employees and the community are in place.

These financial markets, which suspended operations on March 17, are the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corporation, Philippine Depository and Trust Corporation, and the Securities Clearing Corporation of the Philippines (SCCP).

The PSE announced Tuesday evening that trading will resume through offsite locations on Thursday, March 19, but with shortened hours. Clearing and settlement at the SCCP will also resume.

The market will still open at 9:30 a.m., but will close about two hours earlier at 1 p.m., the PSE said.

The trading floor will also be closed and will not be accessible by the trading participants to comply with IATF guidelines.

“Trading activities by all trading participants will have to be conducted remotely through offsite locations,” the PSE said in a memorandum issued late Tuesday.

Guidelines and requirements for offsite trading are contained in a previous memorandum.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesperson of the IATF, also announced during a media briefing Tuesday night, that foreign nationals may now leave anytime during the community quarantine period, unless their flights have been cancelled by the airlines or the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board).

In a statement issued Wednesday, Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente clarified that balikbayans and OFWs are also allowed to depart the country during this period.

“There was some confusion with other government agencies yesterday, but we discussed this to them and to the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease), and we were able to clarify that OFWs are indeed allowed to travel,” he stated.

Departing Filipino tourists, however, are temporarily not allowed to depart.

Morente added that travel restrictions for arriving passengers remain.

“Our travel restrictions for foreign nationals arriving from China, Hong Kong, Macau, North Gyeongsang including Daegu and Cheongdo of South Korea, Iran, and Italy still stands,” Morente said.

Currently, foreign nationals are not allowed to enter the country if they have a history of travel from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and North Gyeongsang including Daegu and Cheongdo of South Korea within the last 14 days.

Exempted from this policy are Filipinos, their spouse and their children, foreigners with Philippine permanent resident visas, and members of the diplomatic corps.

Passengers coming from Iran and Italy are required to present a medical certificate issued within the last 48 hours from arrival, stating that they are Covid-19 free.

The entire island of Luzon has been placed under an enhanced community quarantine, forcing its over 50 million residents to stay at home. Only one person per household is allowed to go out for groceries.

Public transport systems are suspended and food and health services are regulated.

No land, domestic air and domestic sea travel is allowed to and from Luzon.

These measures were imposed in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Philippines is now under a state of public health emergency and state of calamity.

As of March 17, authorities recorded a total of 187 Covid-19 cases in the country, with 14 deaths. Four patients have recovered. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)