TWO party-list lawmakers on Tuesday recommended that returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) and other inbound international Filipino travelers who have already been fully vaccinated should be exempted from the mandatory quarantine period.
Inter-zonal travel restrictions should be also lifted for individuals who have completed their anti-COVID (coronavirus disease-19) jabs, according to Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong and House Assistant Majority Leader and ACT-CIS Rep. Niña Taduran.
Ong said a properly authenticated proof of vaccination should suffice to ease quarantine protocols for returning OFWs and other Filipinos returning to the Philippines so that they can spend more time with their families and truly enjoy their stay in the country.
He said they can still be required to undergo RT-PCR swab upon arrival and must fully inform authorities their travel destination.
Ong said people who have been vaccinated should no longer pose any public health hazard to the general population and should be given some leeway on existing quarantine protocols for inbound OFWs and returning Filipino travelers.
Aside from easing quarantine requirement, Ong also recommended that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) should also relax restrictions on inter-zonal/ cross-border travel for people who have already completed their anti-COVID vaccines. Taduran expressed belief that the mandatory 7-day quarantine in a government-approved facility would only burden the balikbayan, who has a very low risk of contracting and spreading the virus after being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Most of the returning Filipinos have a limited time of staying here and are already cash-strapped. All they want is to be with their families for a longer time and spend whatever money they have for pasalubong or other necessities,” Taduran said.
“I am asking the IATF and the Department of Health (DoH) to reconsider this requisite quarantine, especially if the returning Filipino has been fully vaccinated by a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine and has no symptoms of the virus upon their return in the country,” Taduran pleaded.
A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that fully vaccinated people, specifically with an mRNA vaccine, are less likely to have an asymptomatic infection and transmit the virus.
Those who have been vaccinated with other types have been proven to lower their risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.
“Some European countries and USA have eased their travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people. Why are we making it difficult for our own countrymen,” Taduran ended.
Ong added that vaccinated individuals should no longer be restricted to enter into cities or municipalities regardless of their existing level of quarantine as long as the visitors continue to observe health and safety protocol including the wearing of masks and face shields.
“We have to start jumpstarting our domestic tourism. Those who have already been vaccinated should be allowed to have unrestricted access to our beautiful local destinations. Aside from providing the momentum to boost our tourism sector, encouraging domestic travel for those who have been vaccinated should encourage more people to take their COVID jabs regardless of the brand. As it is, a lot of people are hesitant to get their jab because they don’t trust the brand,” Ong pointed out.
Aside from easing restrictions for domestic and international travel for vaccinated Filipinos, Ong has also recommended that business establishments such as malls, restaurants, hotels, resorts and other similar places should start accommodating senior citizens who have already been vaccinated.
The IATF should also start allowing dine-in and allow 100 percent capacity on restaurants for customers and guests who have been vaccinated.
They can set aside areas that are exclusive for customers who already had their COVID jabs.
“While we understand that the health of our people must be paramount, we also need to help the business sector which has been bleeding for almost two years now. We also have to start reinvigorating our domestic tourism because many of our small and poor municipalities are dependent on tourism. We should encourage our vaccinated population to be at forefront of our national effort to rev up our economy,” Ong said.