PH scraps COVID-19 risk classification for incoming travelers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 28) — The Philippines is suspending the COVID-19 risk classification for incoming travelers beginning Feb. 1, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said on Friday.

The removal of the red, yellow, green list classification means there will be no distinction regardless if a traveler arrived from a country that is high, moderate, or low risk for COVID-19 transmission.

There will instead be different requirements for arriving passengers based on their vaccination status.

Fully vaccinated travelers are no longer required to undergo facility-based quarantine. They only have to monitor themselves for symptoms at home for 7 days.

Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travelers have to undergo facility-based quarantine until they get a negative test result taken on the 5th day, then complete their 14-day quarantine at home.

Outbound travelers, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours before their departure.

Nograles said this will be the quarantine and testing protocol in place until a new variant of concern emerges.

Meanwhile, the Philippines will once again accept fully vaccinated foreign tourists from non-visa required countries starting Feb. 10.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Department of Health made the recommendation to the Inter-Agency Task Force to ease travel restrictions in light of the widespread transmission of the highly contagious Omicron variant in the community.

She said data showed the local spread of the Omicron variant did not stem from returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs). She added there are a lot more Omicron patients without travel history compared to ROFs who were found with Omicron.

"Ang sinasabi ng ating mga eksperto, it doesn't make sense anymore because ang transmission dito sa ating bansa ay napakataas na, baka mas mataas pa doon sa mga pinagbabawalan natin na mga travelers coming from other countries," she said during the Palace briefing.

[Translation: Our experts are saying the restrictions don't make sense anymore because transmission here in our country is already too high, perhaps even higher than in countries where travelers we subject to restrictions come from.]

The health official said that with the lifting of the travel ban, efforts to cut transmission in the community should be strengthened.

The Philippines has a total of 1,153 Omicron cases, mostly with the "stealth" sub-variant BA.2, which is the most common lineage among local cases.