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IATF opposing home isolation in Cebu's policy on OFW, ROF
“That’s what the national government does not want. You can swab on arrival if you want but you have to be in a quarantine facility,” said National Task Force Special Adviser Ted Herbosa.

IATF opposing home isolation in Cebu's policy on OFW, ROF

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon (The Freeman) - June 20, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  What the national government does not like in Cebu’s policy for returning overseas Filipino workers and overseas Filipinos is the part where these travelers are allowed to do home quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 at the airport.

“That’s what the national government does not want. You can swab on arrival if you want but you have to be in a quarantine facility,” said National Task Force Special Adviser Ted Herbosa.

He said it is this aspect of the Cebu policy that relaxes and opposes the protocol being implemented by the national government.

Based on the national policy, inbound travelers will have to undergo quarantine at a facility and, on the seventh day, will be tested for COVID-19. Those who will test positive will remain in quarantine while those who will test negative can be discharged after 10 days.

They have to undergo four more days of quarantine at their local government units.

“That’s a very clear policy that’s evolved because we used to do the swab on arrival and what happened, we implanted or inoculated several overseas Filipino workers and returning overseas Filipinos who tested negative on day or arrival,” he said.

When these travelers reached their local government units, they were found infected with COVID-19.

“The LGUs were mad at the national (government) for allowing them (travelers) to reach their place. So the policy changed,” Herbosa said.

Other than this, Herbosa said Cebu’s “two-test intervention” policy measure is “actually good” because it requires incoming travelers to undergo swab testing upon arrival in the province.

Under the Cebu policy, which is now a Provincial Ordinance, OFWs and ROFs who have proceeded to their LGU after testing negative at the airport will be monitored by the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT).

They will be tested again on the seventh day.

The provincial ordinance states that OFWs and ROFs who are Cebu residents with negative result at the MCIA (Mactan Cebu International Airport) "shall be immediately released and allowed to proceed to their LGUs of residence where they will undergo facility or home quarantine for the remaining balance of fourteen (14) days to be monitored by the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams."

Reason

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said the national government’s quarantine rule is an additional burden on the part of the OFWs and ROFs.

She contended that most of those who have returned to Cebu came home for important reasons, not for leisure, and removing at least six days from their time in the country is additional burden.

  A manifesto of support signed by eight Cebu congressmen reads:

"A significant proportion of our constituent OFWs and ROFs come back to Cebu due to deaths in the family and other family emergencies where it is critical for them to immediately return home. This, notwithstanding the limitation of time their work abroad permits them to stay in Cebu.”

Support for National IATF

Meanwhile, a group which calls themselves “Concerned Doctors of Cebu” is supporting the national policy for OFWs and ROFs, which they said is evidenced-based.

The group’s lead convenor, Dr. Rowena Burden, said they will pass a copy of the manifesto around for doctors to sign starting Monday, June 21. They will submit the manifesto to the national IATF when its members visit Cebu on June 28.

“We stand in solidarity with the medical experts of the Technical Working Group advising the national IATF-EID,” the manifesto reads.

The manifesto said that harm reduction measures are all the more important in Cebu as it is centrally-located and is the gateway to the rest of the Visayas and also to Mindanao.

“In fact, even those who reside in Luzon took advantage of the lax arrival protocols instituted by Cebu Province Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to enter our country through the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA),” it said.

The group says the healthcare system is extremely fragile and even first world countries such as the United States and several countries in the European Union are overwhelmed by COVID-19 surges.

“With the current spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) especially the Delta (Indian) variant that overwhelmed India and has become the predominant variant in the UK, Cebu and the rest of the Philippines cannot afford to be complacent, ignoring evidence-based harm reduction measures,” the manifesto reads.

“The only experts who should be given the final say on what arrival protocols to implement are those in the medical field,” it reads further.

Full vaccinated travelers

In a related development, the national IATF has moved to June 22 the implementation of the testing and shortened quarantine protocols for inbound travel of individuals who are fully vaccinated “with due consideration to the full roll-out of the process of validation of vaccination certificates”.

However, the National Task Force for Covid-19’s Technical Working Group is formulating standard quarantine protocols that can be applied uniformly to Filipinos vaccinated in the Philippines and abroad, said NTF Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr.

“Once ang isang OFW ay vaccinated abroad and it was validated that they were really vaccinated, he or she will have the same quarantine control with those vaccinated here in the Philippines,” Galvez said.

Galvez said vaccinated OFWs, for example, will follow the same quarantine procedure of seven days, but testing them are all being studied and considered.

“We want the policy for the vaccinated individuals to be fair and consistent. Because we have to remember that even vaccinated people can still get infected especially now that we have new variants,” he said.

Galvez bared that the NTF is also coordinating closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and various manning agencies to ensure the efficient validation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were vaccinated overseas.

As per IATF, an individual shall be considered as having been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose or two weeks after having received a single-dose type of vaccine.

A fully vaccinated individual must carry his or her vaccination card, which must be verified prior to his/her departure from the country of origin prior to boarding and a certification issued prior to his/her departure by the Department of Information and Communications Technology, or the City Health Officer of the local government unit, which administered the last dose necessary for full vaccination.

The certification must be presented to the dedicated Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) representative for re-verification at the Department of Transportation One-Stop-Shop (OSS) upon arrival in the country.

Although already vaccinated, fully vaccinated individuals shall still be required to undergo a seven–day facility-based quarantine upon arrival, with the day of arrival being the first day. Upon completion of the seven-day facility-based quarantine, the BOQ shall issue a Quarantine Certificate.

However, for those that will manifest some symptoms during the duration of the mandatory quarantine days, they will undergo Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing. - Caecent No-ot Magsumbol and Philippine Star News Service, JMO (FREEMAN)

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