COVID-19 vaccines

Gov’t to ease requirements gradually for inbound travelers vaccinated abroad

Pauline Macaraeg

OFWs who jus finished their14-day mandatory quarantine is sent home to their respective provinces via NAIA Terminal 2 in Pasay City on May 25, 2020, as the DOLE announces it will try to send stranded 40,000 OFWs home in 3 days.

KD Madrilejos/Rappler

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire says the main challenge right now is verifying vaccination cards issued by other countries

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Saturday, June 5, that the more relaxed quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated people will eventually cover returning Filipinos and inbound foreign tourists who had been vaccinated abroad.

This comes a day after the government shortened the quarantine period for inbound travelers fully vaccinated in the Philippines to seven days, from the previous 14 days. Home quarantine is also no longer required. 

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The shorter quarantine period, however, does not apply to Filipinos and foreigners who were vaccinated abroad.

In response to a question on why only Filipinos fully vaccinated in the Philippines were covered by the new rules, Vergeire said during the Laging Handa briefing: “Kailangan din nating mainform ang ang ating public na ginagawa po natin ito in a phased implementation. Ibig sabihin, gradual lang ho nating gagawin ‘yan dahil nakikita pa rin natin na medyo may pagtaas pa rin ng kaso sa ating bansa.”

(We also need to inform the public that we are doing this in a phased implementation. This means that we will do this gradually because we still see a rise in the COVID-19 cases in the country.)

Vergeire said the major challenge right now is the verification of vaccination cards issued by other countries. The government is still figuring out a way to incorporate this in the system, which may be in the form of bilateral agreements with other countries or implementing the system used by the Bureau of Quarantine.

“Kailangan lang po nating ayusin ‘yung sistema because we need to have a form of verification kapag ang isang tao ay nabakunahan sa ibang bansa,” Vergeire said.

(We need to fix the system because we need to have a form of verification for people vaccinated in other countries.)

Vergeire said that different agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), have made proposals to address the problem.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also said on Friday, June 4, that a group of government agencies including the Department of Health, DFA, and the National Economic and Development Authority will provide recommendations “to further relax testing and quarantine protocols for certain classes of travelers.”

During the Laging Handa briefing, Vergeire said that there will be a gradual implementation of eased requirements for inbound travelers since the Philippines’ vaccination rate is still low.

So unti-unti po nating gagawin ’yan. ’Yung ibang sektor na hindi pa natin naibilang dito ay maaaring sa mga susunod na linggo o buwan ay makasama na rin,” Vergeire said, referring to returning Filipinos and foreign tourists.

(So we will implement this gradually. The other sectors that are not yet covered may soon be included in the coming weeks or months.)

As for foreign tourists, Vergeire clarified that there will be added considerations such as the quarantine status in the Philippines and the country’s vaccination coverage.

As of May 30, the government has administered 5,180,721 vaccine doses. Of these, 3,974,350 were given for the first dose while 1,206,371 were for the second dose. Those who have taken both jabs represent around 1.11% of the Philippine population. – Rappler.com

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is digital forensics researcher for Rappler. She started as a fact checker and researcher in 2019, before becoming part of Rappler's Digital Forensics Team. She writes about the developing digital landscape, as well as the spread and impact of disinformation and harmful online content. When she's not working, you can find her listening to podcasts or K-pop bops.