Not yet time for shorter quarantine period in PH - DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire says it is not yet an "appropriate" time to further shorten the quarantine period for vaccinated travelers entering the country.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday, Vergeire said the Department of Health remains cautious about the highly transmissible Delta variant (B.1.617.2).

"For us in DOH we really do not see that it is appropriate at this time because of the increasing cases, because of the Indian variant actually. We are very, very cautious about the (Delta) variant that it will not enter our borders," said Vergeire, who is also DOH spokesperson.

READ: PH extends travel ban on India, 6 other countries until June 30 

Senators have been calling for a lifting of the mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers, both Filipino and foreign, who are fully vaccinated, noting that this step would help boost the country's economy.

The Philippines has reported 13 cases so far of the "double mutant" Delta variant. Vergeire said they are hoping to maintain this figure, seeing how the variant worsened the situation in other countries that are still trying to recover from the pandemic.

"Hopefully, we can continue to do so because we can see that it is ravaging the other countries. UK, with almost 50% of their population vaccinated, is having another surge because of this (Delta) variant," she said.

Vergeire added: "At this time, I think even experts are saying it would not be appropriate for us to have a shortened quarantine period for our incoming travelers."

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases moved to June 22 the start of the seven-day quarantine protocol for all inbound travelers fully vaccinated in the Philippines.

This is in consideration of "the full rollout of the process of validation of vaccination certificates," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Friday. The policy was supposed to be implemented on June 16.

The current policy does not apply to foreign nationals or overseas Filipino workers who were vaccinated abroad. They still have to undergo a 10-day facility-based isolation and take an RT-PCR, or swab test, on the 7th day.

For inbound travelers who have been vaccinated in the Philippines, a 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.