Puyat: Public health, safety remain a priority
SAYING that the health and safety of the Filipino public health remains as the primary concern of the government, the Department of Tourism (DOT) yesterday said it is supporting the suspension of the entry of foreign tourists to the Philippines as several countries take different approaches to prevent the spread of the new heavily mutated COVID-19 variant named Omicron.
While the Government has yet to report any case of Omicron variant, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) opted to temporarily suspend its November 25 announcement allowing the entry of fully vaccinated foreigners to the country from December 1 to 15.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designated Omicron a variant of concern based on the evidence presented to the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-COV 2-Variant Evolution that the new variant has several mutations and may have an impact on how it behaves, like, how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said “the DOT understands the recent measures as necessary and prudent as there are still a lot of unknown about the new Omicron variant with regards to its transmissibility, its severity, and its global spread.”
She added “the DOT has always prioritized the public’s health and safety, and it shall continue to support national efforts that promote the protection of the country’s well-being.”
Puyat said the suspension would be in effect until further notice.
Aside from halting inbound leisure travel, the IATF also temporarily suspended the testing and quarantine protocols for “green” list countries.
Except for countries classified as under “red” list, entry protocols for all qualified inbound foreign travelers would be based on the testing and quarantine protocols for “yellow” list, which is a three-day quarantine for the fully vaccinated even with a negative Covid-19 test result and five days for the unvaccinated, those with incomplete doses and/or without a negative Covid-19 test result.
Some 16 countries and territories such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom have already detected the variant.
The WHO recommended to the public to maintain social distancing of at least 1 meter; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; and avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces to prevent its spread.