New DOH guidelines shorten quarantine, isolation for fully-vaccinated

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New DOH guidelines shorten quarantine, isolation for fully-vaccinated
Bikers and riders line up for a COVID-19 booster shot drive-thru at the Kartilya ng Katipunan in Lawton, Manila on Jan. 8, 2022.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health updated its protocols on quarantine and isolation periods, shortening the durations for fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients and their close contacts.

Under the updated guidelines, the isolation period of probable, asymptomatic and mild cases would be reduced to seven days, provided they are fully vaccinated.

The 10-day isolation for those who are partially vaccinated and unvaccinated remains.

Individuals with moderate symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, will need to quarantine for 10 days. The DOH retained the 21-day isolation for severe and critical cases, and those who are immunocompromised.

The quarantine period of asymptomatic close contacts who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 was shortened to five days from seven days.

If they are unvaccinated or partially vaccine and have been exposed to COVID-positive individuals, they will need to quarantine for 14 days.

The changes in policy came after the DOH allowed hospitals to implement shortened quarantine and isolation for fully-vaccinated healthcare workers to address the lack of manpower as COVID-19 cases reach unprecedented highs this month.

Vergeire said hospitals can shorten the isolation of fully vaccinated medical workers with boosters to five days “upon careful assessment of benefits and risks." Fully vaccinated healthcare workers who have exposure will quarantine for five days. 

“The updated recommendations were deemed necessary because the difference in guidelines for quarantine of isolation of travelers, the general public, and specific sectors like healthcare workers have been causing confusion on the ground," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a forum Wednesday.

“Prolonged quarantine and isolation duration has been causing strain to our healthcare system and our economy and our experts believe that specifically for Omicron variant, the benefits of shortening quarantine outweigh the risks,” she added.

Testing optional for asymptomatic contacts

Vergeire also said that healthcare workers, senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals will be prioritized for testing so they can be given medications within the first five days of exhibiting symptoms.

“Testing shall now be optional for community level actions, specifically testing should not be required for asymptomatic close contacts. Instead, symptoms monitoring is recommended,” the health official said.

In case an individual who has been exposed to an infected person decides to be tested, testing should be done at least five days from the day of exposure.

“Testing should not be recommended for screening asymptomatic individuals,” Vergeire said.

Under the new guidelines, contact tracing, a key component of a public health response, is no longer a priority intervention in areas where there is community transmission.

Vergeire said the Department of the Interior and Local Government was instructed to expand the roles of contact tracers to implement community health actions such as monitoring of individuals under home quarantine and assisting in vaccination activities.

The department told reporters the updated policies will be presented to the government’s pandemic task force for alignment with other national government agencies. Approval from the president or from the IATF are usually needed for policies to be enforced.

The Philippines on Wednesday reported 32,246 additional COVID-19 infections, bringing the number of active cases to 208,164. 

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