With the discovery of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Malacañang said on Friday the National Task Force Against COVID-19 Task Group focused on returning overseas Filipinos must submit positive COVID-19 results from November 1 onwards to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) for immediate genome sequencing.
Acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said Friday this was provided under Inter-Agency Task Force Resolution 152, which also tasks the Interior department to enjoin local government units to find active cases and immediately flag clusters or increasing cases, as well as immediately submit eligible samples for sequencing.
"This is to further strengthen active case finding and healthcare system capacity," Nograles said.
At the same time, the government’s COVID-19 task force has approved new testing and quarantine protocols for arriving international passengers from countries, territories, and jurisdictions in the “green” and “yellow” list effective December 3.
The green list is composed of countries, territories, and jurisdictions with low risk of COVID-19 infection while the yellow list is composed of destinations with moderate risk of COVID-19 infection.
The Philippines has placed Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, and Switzerland under the “red” list effective November 28 until December 15.
In a separate media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said 253 travelers from South Africa, three from Burkina Faso, and 541 from Egypt arrived in the country from November 15 to November 29.
“Each of these countries had a traveler who tested positive for COVID-19. One out of the 253 from South Africa, one out of the 541 from Egypt, and one of the three from Burkina Faso,” Vergeire said.
“So, all of these — as long as their CT (COVID testing) values are appropriate — we will send them to the Philippine Genome Center for whole-genome sequencing,” she said.
Vergeire said the DOH was still processing the batch that would be subject to genome sequencing for the week.
“Results might be tonight or tomorrow,” she said.
In a statement, Malacanang said the IATF ordered that fully-vaccinated travelers would still be required to have a negative RT-PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.
Upon arrival in the Philippines, they shall undergo facility-based quarantine with an RT-PCR test taken on the 5th day, with the date of arrival being the first day. Regardless of a negative result, they shall be required to undergo home quarantine up to the 14th day from the date of arrival.
In the case of individuals who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or whose vaccination status cannot be independently validated, they shall be required to present a negative RT-PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.
Upon arrival in the Philippines, they shall undergo facility-based quarantine with an RT-PCR test done on the seventh day, with the date of arrival being the first day.
Regardless of a negative result, they shall be required to undergo home quarantine up to the 14th day from the date of arrival.
The Department of Transportation has been directed to ensure that airlines board only passengers who comply with the negative RT-PCR test-before-travel requirement.
The testing and quarantine protocols of minors, on the other hand, shall follow the testing and quarantine protocol of the parent/guardian traveling with them, regardless of the minor’s vaccination status and country of origin.
For international passengers who have already arrived and are currently undergoing quarantine, they shall continue with the testing and quarantine protocols in place at the time of their arrival.
Filipinos from Red List countries/territories/jurisdictions allowed entry via government-initiated or non-government repatriations, and Bayanihan Flights shall only be allowed to deplane via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and/or Clark International Airport.
Earlier, Vergeire said of the total being tested, 250 were Filipinos and 4 were foreign nationals.
Sixty-seven travelers have yet to undergo retesting while three have tested negative for the coronavirus, she added.
The results of the foreign nationals who arrived in Negros Occidental are pending, Vergeire said.
"The three South Africans who arrived in Negros Occidental last Nov. 25 and 26 are all fully vaccinated and are all currently asymptomatic.
They are undergoing home quarantine in a rented house and underwent reswabbing on Dec. 1 with pending test results," Vergeire said.
Local governments, Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of the Interior, and Local Government have been directed to locate arrivals from red list countries between Nov. 19 to 26, according to Vergeire.
The travelers are required to complete a 14-day home quarantine and undergo retesting if they have any symptoms, the DOH spokesperson said.