Duque says not consulted on removing quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III bared Thursday he was not consulted when the pandemic task force scrapped the facility quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travelers from "green countries," adding it was a "cause for concern."

The task force had announced the revised protocol would take effect starting today, October 14. Foreigners complete with their COVID-19 doses would instead be required a negative RT-PCR test taken three days prior to departure from their country of origin. 

"I just want to put on record I wasn't part of that IATF [meeting] that deliberated on this yesterday because I was in another budget hearing in the Senate," Duque told ANC's Headstart.

Duque sits as chairperson of that body. He said others also not in the meeting include Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the government's chief implementer against COVID-19, as well as Secretary Eduardo Ano. 

"As far as I'm concerned, I have always supported a facility quarantine," he added. "So now that apparently the IATF went through the process and they approved this then what we can do now is to strictly monitor this change in border control policies."

The health chief said he would raise his concern once the IATF reconvenes this week. He said, too, that even President Rodrigo Duterte was not for foregoing the quarantine period requirement but only to reduce its length. 

Pressed on the science behind the IATF's decision made without him, Duque said he was told other countries are doing it but qualified that decision. 

"Those countries can afford to do it because their vaccination coverage is at 70%," he said, "whereas we are only at 30%. And now, travellers are passing through NCR, some are travelling to Davao, Cebu and other airports so that's a cause for concern."

The country's inoculation rate seven months since the efforts began is at 30.06%, translating to 23.18 million Filipinos fully vaccinated. 

Filipinos complete with their shots coming from abroad could also do the same, or could choose a facility-based quarantine until they get a negative RT-PCR test taken in the quarantine facility upon arrival. 

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