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Uniform travel policy ‘unfair’ — DoH

Vergeire noted that the current travel policy of classifying countries under green, yellow and red lists remains effective

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The Department of Health (DoH) on Thursday said it is not keen on having a uniform travel policy for all countries, reiterating it would be “unfair” to those who have yet detected a case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) Omicron variant.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a television interview said that it will be challenging to impose a uniform travel policy since not all countries have the same incidence rates for the Omicron variant.

“Not all countries are affected by the Omicron variant. It is going to be unfair and disadvantageous for the countries if we will have uniform protocols for all of them,” Vergeire said.

“Also we have these kinds of considerations for fully vaccinated individual. So having uniform standard or protocol across different countries would not be acceptable, especially with foreign relations,” she added.

Vergeire noted that the current travel policy of classifying countries under green, yellow and red lists remains effective.

“What’s important really would be for us to classify the countries for us to be able to prevent further increase in cases in the Philippines because some countries would have more of these variants or more of these cases and some countries would not have this kind of situation,” Vergeire said.

The DoH official also stressed that the agency does not see a need to revisit the current quarantine protocols for inbound travelers as it remained effective.

“For now we still do not see any reason for us to change protocols because our current protocols are still effective,” Vergeire said.

“Based on our experts’ recommendation, we just need to be very cautious that when an individual is identified with Omicron variant, we need to have them complete the 14 -day quarantine,” she added.

Vergeire said that those who will be tested positive with the Omicron variant will also need to submit a negative RT-PCR test before they can go home.

In the same interview, Vergeire said the country is testing all inbound travelers. Those who will test positive for Covid-19 will be subjected for genomic sequencing.

“Right now all travelers will be tested. All travelers will be sequenced once they tested positive for Covid-19,” Vergeire said.

She reiterated that the country is doing purposive sampling by sequencing among those clusters of infections, severe types of infections in hospitals and special samples of returning Filipinos.

Vergeire said the country’s current bio-surveillance capacity has been doubled as the Philippine Genome Center can now run at least 1,500 samples per week.

“Aside from that we have sub-national laboratories and satellite genome centers in Visayas and Mindanao and other parts of the country, wherein we are already building their capacity,” Vergeire said.

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