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Travel restrictions extended

TRAVEL restrictions in more than 30 countries were extended until January 31.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) yesterday approved the recommendation to extend the entry travel restrictions and the rules applicable to all travelers coming from or transiting through the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, The People’s Republic of China, including Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa and Canada, Spain, United States of America, Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Austria, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Oman.

The IATF also directed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to strictly implement issuances against airlines that allow the boarding of passengers who are prohibited from entering the Philippines, pursuant to the travel restrictions imposed by the Office of the President and the IATF. The IATF, in coordination with other agencies, may issue implementing guidelines on the exemptions to these entry restrictions.

Contact tracing protocols shall be strengthened by expanding to third-generation contacts for known new variant cases. All identified close contacts are required to undergo a strict facility-based 14-day quarantine while remaining contacts from the flight manifest shall be advised of the appropriate quarantine protocols. In this connection, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is directed to issue advisories to local government units (LGUs) to prepare and strengthen the maintenance of their quarantine facilities.

The DILG is also directed to ensure the proper enforcement of the StaySafe.ph system use by LGUs for ease of contact tracing.

Those who are found to be positive, apart from the prescribed testing and quarantine protocols, shall undergo whole genome sequencing to be conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), University of the Philippines Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC), and the UP National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH). Related to this, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the DOTr One-Stop Shop shall ensure that appropriate protocols are implemented for all those found to be positive of the new COVID-19 variants.

In addition, the IATF approved the continuation of weekly genomic biosurveillance activities of the DOH, UP-PGC, UP-NIH among incoming passengers and local cases, prioritizing hospitalized patients, re-infected patients, and those in clusters.

The IATF further directed the convening of a small working group as soon as possible to resolve issues on funding, availability and use of quarantine facilities, and eventual handling over LGUs of arriving overseas Filipinos. The DOH shall be the lead in this working group.

Meanwhile, the IATF approved the updated criteria for selecting priority areas for COVID-19 vaccines deployment of the Department of Health, in consultation with the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) for COVID-19 Vaccines.

Lastly, the IATF revised the operational capacity of the road, rail, maritime and aviation sectors of public transportation for areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). Willy M. Balasa