Task force studying possible week-long home quarantine for fully vaccinated Filipinos returning to PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 18) — The COVID-19 task force is studying if it can further ease quarantine rules for fully vaccinated Filipinos returning from abroad, Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said Friday.

He said a technical working group is already looking into allowing all returning Filipinos - whether they were vaccinated here or in the country of origin - to spend the required seven-day quarantine in their homes.

"Ang gagawin natin is they will be having their home quarantine and inspected regularly by the LGU. Paiigtingin natin yung ating quarantine restrictions in terms of hindi talaga sila makakalabas sa 7 days," Galvez told reporters.

[Translation: What we'll do is they will having their home quarantine and inspected regularly by the LGU. We will intensify our quarantine restrictions in a sense that they really cannot step outside during those 7 days.]

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of a vaccine.

Currently, only returning Filipinos who received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines in local vaccination sites may avail of the shortened quarantine period, which must be spent in accredited facilities.

However, Galvez said this plan will rely on the ability of agencies like the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to coordinate with manning agencies and foreign employers to validate their vaccination status.

Swab test requirement

Galvez, who heads the national task force against COVID-19, said swab tests should still be mandatory for returning travelers.

"Magiging uniform whether vaccinated here or abroad, meron silang same quarantine of 7 days after. Ang recommendation is they will also be subject to testing," he said.

Galvez added that countries like Israel - where mass vaccinations have been implemented - still requires swab tests for travelers. He said task force members will meet with Israeli medical experts on Sunday to discuss policy recommendations.

"Dapat you understand why the IATF is doing this. We don't want any single trace of the Delta variant coming here," he added, expressing concern with the surge in infections in areas like Indonesia and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health plans to recommend scrapping the testing requirement for returning Filipinos who have been vaccinated abroad once they find ways to verify their vaccination status or cards.

Current rules require inbound travelers to undergo testing on the seventh day of their return and go through facility-based quarantine for 10 days. They must complete their two-week quarantine in their respective homes.

But starting June 22, inbound travelers who have been vaccinated in the Philippines need not undergo COVID-19 testing while on facility-based quarantine, provided they do not develop flu-like symptoms. Their mandatory stay in quarantine centers will also be shortened to seven days.

The same relaxed rules are being considered for returning Filipinos who got their COVID-19 shots in other countries, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday.

"Ganyan din po ang ating pong nirerekomenda for those vaccinated abroad na mga Pilipino na babalik dito pero hindi pa ho natin yan nafa-finalize because we need means of verification of their vaccination status or vaccination cards," Vergeire said during a media forum.

[Translation: We are recommending the same policy for those who plan to go back here, but we have not finalized the recommendation because we need means of verification of their vaccination status or vaccination cards.]

The Department of Foreign Affairs is coordinating with different embassies on possible ways to validate the COVID-19 vaccination of Filipinos overseas, Vergeire said in a separate briefing. "Tinitingnan rin natin iyong risk classification ng isang bansa kung paano maisasama sa criteria na binubuo natin," she added.

[Translation: We are also checking if we could include the risk classification of a country in the criteria we are formulating.]

Such proposals will be discussed with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases next week, Galvez said.