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Time for pandemic exit plan, IATF told

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Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco have asked the government to start weaning the country away from the pandemic mindset.

In their joint letter to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Concepcion and Austriaco said the time has come to implement a pandemic exit plan.

The letter was addressed to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and IATF Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr.

Among the initial steps they proposed is the reinstatement of international travel protocols prior to 3 December 2021, including Covid-19 testing within 24 hours of departure, an additional RT-PCR test upon arrival, three-day quarantine, and a post-quarantine test.

A negative test result at the end of the three-day isolation would allow the traveler to already leave the quarantine facility, they added.

The said protocols were already in effect but were put on hold due to Covid cases surge blamed on the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

“At this time, the Omicron surge has peaked in the NCR and is expected to peak in the different regions of the country in the next two weeks. In its wake, this surge will confer significant population protection throughout the archipelago,” Concepcion and Austriaco said in their letter to Secretary Nograles and Galvez.

Moreover, they insisted that a significant number of Filipinos have already acquired immunity from Covid-19, either through infection-acquired immunity or through vaccination.

“We put forward these suggestions as the country’s economic health is now a serious, time-sensitive issue,” they said, adding that easing travel restrictions will perk up the economy.

“Among Asian countries, only the Philippines, Myanmar and Japan have the strictest travel restrictions. The rest have either lifted curfews and stay-at-home orders, opened their borders to non-citizens and non-residents, and have allowed all or most commercial flights to the country,” they added.

Concepcion expressed belief that the country’s travel restrictions can be further eased without compromising safety by scrapping facility-based quarantine and instead requiring only home isolation.

“The next few months will be critical on how the country will move on from the pandemic. I believe the government should set an example and start opening the country to the world. This will instill confidence in the vaccines and encourage more of our countrymen to take them,” Concepcion said.

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