MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has issued an “extremely urgent” memorandum ordering all Centers for Health Development (CHD) directors to observe intensified border controls at all ports of entry.
“Following the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in China, there is a need for the country to intensify the monitoring and implementation of border control protocols for incoming individuals, especially from China, at all ports of entry,” said the memorandum, which was issued late Saturday, December 31.
The DOH urged a “heightened surveillance” for respiratory symptoms from all travelers from China. Airport and seaport terminal authorities were also advised to prepare for a possible resumption of testing of inbound travelers from “high-alert countries.”
The memorandum also required concerned agencies and local government units to report symptomatic passengers and COVID-positive travelers screened at points of entry. Authorities were also asked to increase information dissemination regarding COVID-19 infection prevention and control.
The memorandum also reiterated the continued implementation of the updated guidelines on minimum public health standards and other COVID-19 surveillance and mitigation measures.
The DOH memorandum comes after a new surge in China – which has recently lifted its strict lockdown measures – threatens to spread to other countries. Cumulative infections in China may reach 18.6 million in December, according to estimates from UK-based health data firm Airfinity on Thursday, December 29.
A growing list of countries – which already includes South Korea, Spain, the United States, and India – have begun implementing COVID tests for travelers from China. (READ: COVID-19 travel curbs against Chinese visitors ‘discriminatory’ – state media)
Currently, travelers arriving in Manila are only required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test if they are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated. However, the Bureau of Quarantine is already preparing for the possible reimplementation of testing for inbound travelers.
In 2022, the Philippines had lifted most of its COVID-19 health restrictions, such as its mask mandates for indoor and outdoor settings. – Rappler.com