IATF shortens quarantine, scraps testing for travelers fully vaccinated in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4)— The country's pandemic response task force announced on Friday that all fully vaccinated inbound travelers who have been inoculated in the Philippines only need to undergo a 7-day quarantine instead of completing the 14-day facility-based isolation.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the new policy does not cover returning Filipinos and foreign nationals who have been fully vaccinated abroad. They still have to undergo a 10-day facility-based isolation and take a swab test on the 7th day.

For inbound travelers who have been vaccinated in the Philippines, an RT-PCR, or swab test, will only be done if they exhibit flu-like symptoms during their 7-day isolation in a quarantine facility, the Inter-Agency Task Force said.

It added that a person is considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks after having a single-dose vaccine or the second shot for brands requiring two doses. The inbound traveler must carry a vaccination card, which must be verified prior to departure and checked upon arrival in the Philippines.

'Challenges in verification system'

Asked why the new policy only covers those vaccinated in the Philippines, the Department of Health pointed to "challenges" in the country's verification system.

"May challenge pa ho tayo kasi sa systems natin ngayon, kung saan, humahanap pa ho tayo ng means to verify 'yun pong vaccination na manggagaling po sa ibang bansa," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the Laging Handa briefing on Saturday.

"Kailangan lang po nating ayusin 'yung sistema because we need to have a form of verification kapag ang isang tao ay nabakunahan sa ibang bansa," she added.

[Translation: We're facing a challenge in our systems now, where we're still looking for means to verify the vaccination of those from other countries. We just need to fix the system because we need to have a form of verification if one is vaccinated in another country.]

Vergeire said one way of addressing this is to have bilateral agreements and coordination with other countries.

Policy for fully-vaccinated individuals

In a previous briefing, the agency said there are still some restrictions on fully-vaccinated individuals as the country is still boosting the pace of inoculation. Vergeire said the United Kingdom and the United States have vaccinated 40% and 30% of its population, respectively, so they can afford to remove restrictions.

She added health experts in the country are looking at waiting for the vaccination of 30% of the Philippines' total population or even 50% of senior citizens before further easing rules on fully-immunized individuals.

"Dadating tayo sa point na pag na-reach natin ang threshold na 'yan we will also have these liberal incentives for fully vaccinated... If ever, we will be implementing slowly and gradually para masiguro nating ligtas pa rin tayo sa banta ng COVID-19," she said in a media briefing on Friday.

[Translation: When we reach that threshold, we will also have liberal incentives for those who are fully vaccinated. If ever, we will be implementing slowly and gradually to ensure we are still safe from the threat of COVID-19.]

The Philippines has administered a total of 5.18 million shots as of June 1, with 1,206,371 people having completed their second dose since the launch of the national vaccination program in March. The average daily administered doses is now at 144,000.