No visa, quarantine for fully vaxxed travelers from 157 nations by Feb. 10
The Philippines will re-open to fully vaccinated tourists from most countries on Feb. 10 and lift quarantine requirements, officials said Friday, nearly two years after closing its borders to contain the coronavirus.
Tourism operators across the nation have been devastated by a plunge in international visitors and restrictions on domestic travel.
Their misery was worsened by super typhoon “Odette” that smashed into the country in December, wiping out resorts, restaurants, and bars in popular tourist destinations.
“The tourism industry can now recover and it can contribute greatly to jobs, livelihoods, and the country’s economic growth,” presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles told a briefing.
A previous plan to welcome back tourists from Dec. 1 was suspended after the emergence of the hyper-contagious Omicron variant that has since ripped through the Philippines.
Friday’s announcement allows for the resumption of visa-free travel for short visits by nationals from the 157 countries who already enjoyed permit-free entry to the Philippines before the pandemic began.
Fully vaccinated tourists from countries on the list will need to test negative for COVID-19 shortly before flying to the Philippines and will not have to quarantine on arrival.
Those fully vaccinated are no longer required to undergo facility-based quarantine, but shall self-monitor for seven days. On the other hand, unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, and those whose vaccination status cannot be confirmed shall undergo the required quarantine protocols as implemented by the Bureau of Quarantine and the local government units.
The list excludes China, the Philippines’ fastest-growing tourist market, as well as Taiwan and India.
But it includes Manila’s remaining top-10 tourism sources, such as the United States, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, and Britain.
Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said it made no sense to restrict international travelers when COVID-19 transmission rates in the Philippines were so high, “maybe even higher” than in some countries.
“Based on those premises we recommended to ease restrictions,” she said.
Unvaccinated foreigners will be banned from entry from Feb. 16, Nograles said.
Tourism is a major driver of the country’s economy, accounting for nearly 13 percent of gross domestic product in 2019, when more than 8 million people visited, official data shows.
That slumped to 5.4 percent in 2020 as tourist arrivals plummeted 82 percent to 1.48 million.
The government tightened restrictions across the National Capital Region and other provinces in recent weeks as Omicron fueled a record surge in infections.
Around half of the country’s 110 million people are fully vaccinated.
The Philippines has recorded more than 3.4 million infections since the start of the pandemic, including over 53,000 deaths.
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat clarified that the recent decision by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) will cover only leisure travelers from countries whose nationals are allowed visa-free entry to the Philippines.
By Feb. 1, 2022 the country classification system will be suspended while fully-vaccinated returning overseas Filipinos will not be required to undergo quarantine as long as they are able to present a negative result of an RT-PCR test taken 48 hours before arrival.
Also, starting Feb. 10 and upon consultation with health experts, qualified leisure travelers will no longer be required to undergo quarantine as long as they are able to present a negative result of an RT-PCR test taken 48 hours before arrival.
“We are aware that there is no room for complacency given the unpredictability of the virus. We will closely monitor the situation and ensure that health and safety protocols are strictly implemented in all tourism establishments,” Puyat said.
Based on the IATF guidelines, leisure travelers from visa-free countries will be allowed to enter the country, provided that their passports are valid for at least six months at the time of arrival, and they possess outbound tickets to their country of origin or next country of destination.
Leisure visitors must also carry proof of vaccination against COVID-19 that are recognized by the IATF.. They include certificates of vaccination issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), VaxCertPH of the Department of Health, and a national or state digital
certificate of a foreign government which has accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal arrangement unless otherwise permitted by the IATF.