DOH studying proposal to further ease protocols for international travelers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22) — Despite rising COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health (DOH) said it is considering the proposal to further relax restrictions for international visitors.

"Isa po ito sa naipag-utos sa amin ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) na pag-aralan," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing on Saturday. "So, we are now studying this, together with our experts, kung ano po 'yung tamang rekomendasyon na maibibigay natin."

[Translation: The IATF has asked us to review this proposal. So, we are now studying this, together with our experts, to know what recommendation we could give.]

Vergeire was referring to Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion's proposal to shift to a home-based approach for the testing and quarantine and isolation protocols for international travelers.

Concepcion suggested that antigen tests and home quarantine and isolation be allowed, instead of the current RT-PCR tests and facility-based setup.

"Kung sakali mang mairekomenda 'yan, tayo naman ay magiging handa, kasi kung matatandaan niyo, four-door policy po ang ating ipinatutupad," Vergeire said.

[Translation: Should we move forward with the recommendation, we will be ready, because if you recall, we are implementing a four-door policy.]

"Ang first door po natin would be our border control. So, meron pa ho tayong tatlong safeguards or layers of protection na atin pong aasahan kung saka-sakali pong mawawala o tatanggalin na ang control natin sa borders," she added.

[Translation: Our first door is border control. So, that means we will still have three more safeguards or layers of protection if ever we remove it.]

The DOH's four-door policy includes the implementation of travel restrictions and bans; screening, testing, and quarantine protocols; and prevent-detect-isolate-treat-reintegrate (PDITR) strategies; as well as the strengthening of the health care capacity.

On Friday, the government announced it is allowing the entry of returning overseas Filipinos who recovered from COVID-19 but still tested positive in their RT-PCR test results prior to their departure to the Philippines. They only need to present a medical certificate showing they completed the mandatory isolation period, are no longer infectious, and have been allowed free movement or travel, among others.

READ: PH allows entry of recently recovered ROFs with COVID-positive pre-departure tests

The development comes amid the continuous spike in COVID-19 infections. On Saturday, the DOH reported 30,552 new cases, raising the nationwide tally to about 3.39 million.