The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Tuesday, January 5, established a Technical Working Group on COVID-19 Variants, in compliance with an earlier directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.
This Technical Working Group will monitor and identify the occurrence of new variants of COVID-19 in the country. It will also provide policy recommendations to the IATF on the appropriate response regarding these variants.
Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire will chair the Technical Working Group. Executive Director Jaime Montoya of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development will serve as Co-Chair.
Other members include Dr. Anna Ong-Lim of the DOH Technical Advisory Group (TAG); Dr. Marissa Alejandria of the DOH TAG; Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana of the DOH TAG; Dr. Celia Carlos of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine; Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-dela Paz of the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health; Dr. Cynthia Saloma of the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center; and Dr. John Wong of Epimetrics.
Moreover, the IATF decided to ban all foreign travelers coming from countries/jurisdictions covered by travel restrictions for the new variant of COVID-19, or with a travel history in those areas within the last fourteen (14) days prior to arrival in the Philippines. Except for local/accredited foreign diplomats and international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations, who shall be exempted from quarantine protocols as long as they will undergo RT-PCR test upon arrival in the arrival, execute an undertaking, and observe strict 14-day quarantine.
Also exempted are foreign dignitaries who shall observe existing testing and quarantine protocols upon arrival and those for medical and emergency cases, including their medical escorts.
On the other hand, Filipino citizens coming from countries/jurisdictions where travel restrictions are in place or who have been to the said areas within fourteen (14) days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines shall strictly observe an absolute fourteen (14)-day facility-based quarantine period, except for highly exceptional and / or medical reasons, which the DOH would determine.
In addition, any individual arriving in the Philippines who may have received vaccination for COVID-19 in other countries/jurisdictions shall still be required to observe the mandatory testing and quarantine protocols.
In the same meeting, the IATF directed the DOH, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, and the Presidential Communications Operations Office to further strengthen their enforcement, monitoring, and communication efforts or impose additional specific measures to mitigate the possible holiday surge of COVID-19 cases.