Philippines tightens requirement for entry of vaccinated travellers over Omicron variant

A flight attendant performs a safety demonstration in a flight from Boracay, Aklan province, Philippines, on Dec 2, 2021. - Reuters

MANILA (Xinhua): The Philippines has tightened the quarantine and testing rules for incoming travelers flying in from countries outside of the 14 banned countries due to Omicron variant outbreaks.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported 544 new Covid-19 infections on Friday (Dec 3), pushing the number of confirmed cases in the South-East Asian country to 2,833,878.

The country has recorded less than 1,000 cases for the 10th straight day.

The DOH also reported that 235 more people died from Covid-19 complications, bringing the country's death toll to 48,987. The number of active cases or patients still battling the disease in the country dropped to 14,977.

The government has tightened the quarantine and testing rules for incoming travelers flying in from countries outside of the 14 banned countries due to Omicron variant outbreaks.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said travellers must present a negative result of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) swab test conducted 72 hours before departure from the country of origin from Friday.

Upon arrival, the vaccinated travellers must undergo a facility-based quarantine. On the fifth day, they will be swab tested again, and even if the result is negative, they need to isolate at home until the 14th day from the date of arrival.

Under the previous rule, incoming travelers outside the flagged high-risk countries were only asked to self-monitor after a negative RT-PCR test result.

Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or whose vaccination status cannot be independently validated traveler needs to present negative RT-PCR test results taken 72 hours before leaving the country of origin, Nograles said.

For those travellers, they need to undergo facility-based quarantine. While on quarantine, an RT-PCR test will be taken on the seventh day and must complete the 14-day quarantine at home even if the test result is negative, according to Nograles.

"International passengers who have already arrived and are currently undergoing quarantine shall continue with the testing and quarantine protocols in place at the time of their arrival," Nograles said at a virtual press conference.

From Nov 15 to 29, the DOH said the country has recorded 253 arrivals from South Africa, 249 are returning overseas Filipinos, and 4 are foreign nationals.

"The Bureau of Quarantine has already verified or contacted 71 of these travellers, while 182 are still being verified," the DOH said in a statement.

The Philippines has barred travelers from South Africa and 13 countries in Europe and southern Africa with known Omicron outbreaks.

The DOH reported its highest caseload on Sept 11 with 26,303 cases.

The Philippines, which has around 110 million population, has tested more than 22.5 million people since the pandemic.

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